Yi Peng FestivalEvery year during the summer solstice, the night skies of Poland are filled with thousands of paper lanterns being released into the heavens. People write their wishes on the lanterns before sending them up into the sky in the hope that their wish will some day come true.

Yi Peng is a similar festival that takes place in Thailand, but instead of being used to make a wish, lanterns are used to symbolize the release of one’s troubles. It’s true that the customs and traditions surrounding these two festivals are different, but the sight of thousands of paper stars embracing the night sky is surely a universal beauty.

In the Lanna (northern Thai) language, “Yi Peng” translates as “second month,” indicating the timing of the festival, which is held on a full moon of the second month of the Lanna calendar.  Yi Peng celebrations are held in the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai. The most noted ritual that takes place during Yi Peng is the releasing of thousands of floating paper lanterns into the night sky.

There is a sense of escaping from evil or getting rid of one’s bad luck upon the release of the paper lanterns.  Many people pinpoint a trouble that has plagued them during the year and release the lanterns with that in mind.  For example, “I want to get rid of the bad luck from when I got into a car accident during the summer” or “I want to rid my business of the bad luck of a slow year.”

One of our Japanese correspondents was fortunate enough to participate in this breathtaking event. Maejo University, located in a suburb of Chiang Mai, served as the lantern launch site and crowds of people gathered for the occasion.  An hour before the release of the lanterns, a priest chanted a Buddhist sutra on the event stage while the crowd that had gathered sat in prayer and listened. “The religious atmosphere was palpable,” noted our correspondent. Yi Peng Festival2

“When the time came, everyone readied their lanterns and released them while saying a prayer. We were bathed in the orange glow of the lanterns as they climbed high into the air. The sight was nothing short of amazing.

The spectacle only lasted five minutes, but for that brief moment time stood still. It’s just a simple wish for those who shared this magical experience with me, but I hope you reach the sky. I can’t help but think that. May the coming year be filled with joy and happiness. For me and for you as well.”

We hope that you will be able to partake in the Yi Peng festival for yourself someday and experience the camaraderie and beauty that left our correspondent so completely spellbound.

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[ Read in Japanese ]