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Magic! I came to Thailand for one reason. Normally, that reason would be food. But this time it was to attend the Yi Peng Lantern Ceremony in Chiang Mai. When I first saw a video of the Yi Peng ceremony, I was immediately moved by the images of 10,000 floating lanterns caressing the sky. I knew I needed to experience it.
The Yi Peng Ceremony is held near the ground of Mae Jo University and is the largest lantern ceremony in all of Thailand. It’s part of a week of festivities surrounding the Loi Krathong festival, a festival that occurs around the 12th full moon every year.
It was suggested that we arrive by 5 pm. We negotiated a rate with the songteow driver for our group. A songteow is a truck with seats along the sides of the rear bed. We piled/smushed 26 people into one songteow and left for the Mae Jo University grounds.
Before entering the festival, there were guards ensuring everyone was dressed properly. No shoulders or knees can be shown on women. I borrowed a friends scarf and wrapped it around my naked shoulders and had to buy a pair of hugely oversized pants at the gate to cover my knees.
We were greeted by a beautiful song ending with “Clear your mind and open your hearts”. It set the tone for the evening.
The place was packed, but we found a spot near the waaay back, which worked to our advantage since our group had 12 young children that appreciated the space to run around and play. We were unable to see the buddhist monk procession from there, but we did enjoy the beautiful chanting of the monks.
There were troches set up evert few meters to help light the lanterns. I kept thinking that this beautiful ceremony could never, ever happen in the US. There is just too much fire-hazard.
The ceremony was beyond words. Since words and images are all I have to share with you, here are a few to describe it:
Peaceful. Romantic. Energetic. Awesome. Magical. Unifying. Tear-inducing.
Perhaps even life-changing
I looked up into the sky, gazing upon 10,000 lanterns each released by individual hands, uniting to form a constellation of harmony on the black sky. I am reminded of my individuality while being connected to everyone and everything at the same time. The feeling of unity and individuality was overwhelming and the entire scene was magical.
The festival was special because we weren’t there to be entertained, we were a part of it. I was able to just sit for a minute alone. meditating like the monks.
There was a lot of love in working together to light the lantern correctly. It was fun in seeing it fill up with hot air. The joy in releasing it and watching it rise into the sky to meet others was profound.
Seeing the glow of light on my children’s faces, I couldn’t help but be filled with overwhelming love for this life, their lives, and this incredible experience of life.
Amongst the sea of people and lanterns, I meditated on all the events of my life that led up to this. Like the individual lanterns floating in the sky, each event was part of a bigger plan, unbeknownst to me. Who could have ever imagined I’d be standing in Thailand looking into the night sky, mesmerized by floating lanterns? Who could have foreseen that my children and husband would be such blessings and enormous lessons of how to appreciate individuality? Who could have ever know that the friends I’ve made along the journey of life and those who join me now were intended to be with me for the moments they were?
I could have never imagined this.
Our ride home was a 2 hour traffic nightmare ride in the back of a songteow. We were tired, hot and thirsty. But our own smiles glittered throughout the night. I’d do this every year.
Enjoy the video of this event set to the chanting of buddhist monks. It still does not capture the beauty of Yi Peng, which can only be truly experienced in person.
(I suggest you watch this video full screen).
Put this event on your bucket list and go next year!