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Lights in flight

The New Paper | Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

People release floating lanterns during the festival of Yee Peng in the northern capital of Chiang Mai October 25, 2014.

Thousands of lanterns were released into the skies of Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Saturday night to mark the festival of Yi Peng.

The annual event, also known as the Festival of Light, is celebrated as a religious event where locals pay homage to Buddha.

It is held on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar.

The event's highlight was the launching of floating lanterns, known as Khom loy, into the night sky, Reuters reported.

Participants say a prayer and make a wish as they light a candle in the lantern, which is typically made from rice paper, and release them.

The lanterns create a visual spectacle as they float up.

Individuals usually light smaller candles, while relatives or groups of friends would often get a bigger one.

The festival has become so popular that a second round of it is usually held a week or so later for tourists, usually at a much higher price. It comes with a traditional Thai dinner.

The origins of the festival date back to the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which was founded in the 13th century.

ROYAL BEGINNING

It started as a royal ceremony, but morphed into one which commoners used to worship Hindu gods.

It has since evolved into a mix of Buddhist traditions.

But most people see the occasion in a more secular way now, as a time for forgiveness and renewal.

While once a festival celebrated only in Thailand's northern regions, it is now also massively popular in the capital Bangkok and other Thai cities.


This article was first published on Oct 28, 2014.
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