Chiang Mai is famous for being the lantern center in Asia. A festival called Yi Peng, which occurs on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (mid November usually), is celebrated by releasing lanterns into the sky, or floating them away on the water. A lantern festival has been on Alayna’s bucket list for quite some time. For those of you with children, it’s like what happens in the movie Frozen. We obviously missed the lantern festival in November, but luckily enough a similar thing happens at New Year’s eve.
It’s extremely hard to fully capture the magical sight of thousands of lanterns floating through the night sky. We arrived to the main square area around 10 PM and already there were hundreds of lanterns drifting through the sky, guiding our way to the main site. Once there, many locals were selling lanterns; a small size for $1, a large size for double. They come folded up with a large circular wick in the middle. You are supposed to write your New Year’s resolution or a your wishes for the future and think of them as you release the lantern into the night sky. Releasing the lantern symbolizes letting go of the misfortunes and illness of the previous year.
Some people’s lanterns and dreams immediately caught fire and burnt to the ground. Others got caught in trees, and some had holes in them and never took off at all. A little depressing start to those New Year’s resolutions so carefully thought out, but realistic nonetheless. Thankfully, all of the three lanterns that we set off floated blissfully into the night sky.
It’s interesting to see how the lanterns change direction with the invisible wind currents that are in the sky. They start floating one way with the breeze you can feel on the ground, and then loop up and around and go back the opposite direction so high above you that they look like stars. What goes up must come down; indeed they do, burnt out lanterns fall in the northern part of the city, littering the streets and homes. Airplanes adjust their routes and certain flights are cancelled during these times.
There was no loud music, no big countdown, and the stroke of midnight passed us by without us really knowing it. It’s a little confusing to start with, because Thailand uses the Buddhist calendar, which is 543 years ahead of us. Happy 2562 everyone!