Loi Krathong: Thailand’s Lantern Festival

You’ve likely seen photos of a sky full of paper lanterns. It makes for a dreamy, incredible photo, but did you know that these photos are from a REAL festival that takes place every year in Thailand? The release of these lanterns is part of Loi Krathong. A celebration that happens each year throughout Thailand.

What Is It?

Loi Krathong is a Thai holiday, in which Thai people create Krathongs and float them down the river. A Krathong is an ornate sculpture made of banana tree trunks and then decorated in beautiful ways with banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense. Loi Krathong is held on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month every year (usually mid or end November). 

The Origins of Loi Krathong

There are many stories about how the festival originated. But the main version is based on the fact that Thai people rely heavily on the rivers for agriculture. This is a chance for them to pay respect to water and to the river goddess. They now also see it as a way to wash away any sins from the past year and make a wish for good fortune in the following year. It’s thought to be when the rivers are highest and the moon is brightest, the perfect time to ‘make merit’. 

The Yee Peng lantern festival has also become part of the Loi Krathong celebrations. Releasing a lantern, much like the Krathong, is a symbol of letting go of any sins or misfortune from the year before. Buddhists believe that if you make a wish when you set your lantern off, it will come true if you do good deeds in the following year.

Experiencing Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong is without a doubt in my top 10 experiences abroad. I actually celebrated this holiday last time I lived in Thailand, but no one does it like they do in Chiang Mai. It was amazing. I have yet to come up with the right combination of words to actually describe it. I was left speechless as I saw lantern after lantern floating into the sky high above the river, while the Krathongs were floating below. This is something you need to see in person at some point in your life. 

If you’re going to go to Thailand for Loi Krathong, there’s no place that does this celebration quite like Chiang Mai. Check out our Chiang Mai travel guide for all the best tips and tricks to exploring this wonderful city.

Much like words, pictures and even videos can’t do it justice. But, I have always felt that seeing pictures and learning about traditions like this can inspire you to go for yourself someday! It’s definitely a Thailand bucket list experience.

So, if you were, what would you have wished for? Make your wish now! Then, go do good in the world, so it will come true. 

Sam Timmerman

Sam Timmerman