Just a few years ago, I learned about Loy Krathong (the “lantern festival”) from a friend who had experienced it in Thailand during her stay. The images from it captivated me, and as I learned more about the ritual I became even more intent on trying to experience Loy Krathong myself.
Loy Krathong is first and foremost a Buddhist ceremony, which carries multiple meanings and has evolved in significance over time. Different communities celebrate in different ways. They are all beautiful, but the sky lantern release just outside of Chiang Mai is one of particular visual beauty.
In simple terms, Loy Krathong is observed to show gratitude and respect, release sadness and burdens, and to be joyful. The ceremony commences with prayer by monks, who then circumambulate the grounds as they chant. It is a time in the ceremony of great reverance and peace. Torches throughout the grounds are then lit, upon which the lanterns are ignited. The lanterns are about 4-feet tall when fully inflated, and it takes a few minutes for the heat of the flame to fill the lantern with hot air sufficient to carry it skyward.
Thousands of lanterns fill the sky at the monk’s blessing, and music fills the air in celebration as people laugh and marvel at the night sky filled with lanterns. It is a very beautiful and moving moment.
And like a new Milky Way, the trail of lanterns travels higher and higher and finally disappears in the heavens. And as each lantern carries away sadnesses – both tiny and large – the weight of the world becomes a little lighter.
Additonal shots and video by Brett Faucett: