Lighting the Thom Loy Lanterns

Every year in Chiang Mai they begin the Loy Khratang festival by releasing Thom Loy lanterns. This is a Buddhist ceremony where families release mini hot air balloon-like lanterns into the night sky, praying that the lanterns take their bad luck and misfortune with them. Though I say "mini," some of these lanterns were 5 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. The larger ones were made out of a polyester material; the smaller ones out of tissue paper (like the stuff you put into a Christmas bag).

First, a family unfolds the lantern. The bottom of the lantern is a rigid ring from which a flammable coil is held by wires. The coil is set on fire, and the fire fills the lantern with heat.

091024 Loy Thom Lanterns

The family raises the lantern high, says a prayer, and then releases it into the night.

091024 Loy Thom Lanterns

Although many people released their lanterns one or two at a time, whenever they wanted, the main Buddhist ceremony, complete with chanting monks, responsive chanting, and group prayers, released a thousand lanterns at once (more of that in the next post).

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