The Thai Lantern Festival
During the full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar, Thais celebrate the festival of Yi Peng. Thousands of floating lanterns are released over the Pacific Ocean as families celebrate the coming of another year. Buddhist monks gather to ensure that their good deeds are recognized as they move closer towards spiritual enlightenment.
Roughly the size of a person and sewn from thin silk fabric, Khom Loi are created by the thousands in the days leading up to the festival. Fires lit at the base provide lift, carrying them upward into prevailing winds. Over the course of a few hours, they fill the night sky traveling on a one-way journey towards a vast and distant horizon.
The events of Friday, March 11, 2011, held us all captive with shock and grief. The Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami were unlike anything we had ever witnessed. Cameras captured heartbreaking images of a wave of incomprehensible destruction. We learned quickly how unforgiving nature can be as it was revealed that close to 16,000 had people perished in a single day. The event is even more shocking when you consider the far more deadly Indian Ocean Tsunami that took more than 200,00 lives seven years prior. It is poetic to think of these lanterns as representing human souls lost in the wake of these tragedies. In reality, there are not nearly enough to account for the lives taken every year by natural and manmade disasters.
Yi Peng is a celebration of life and spirit, held in reverence to human kindness and the tradition of giving. The beauty of this event is only outdone by the goodwill and spirit for which it exists. It is a moment of belonging and a chance to wish for good fortune in the new year.