Envision a night sky lit up by a full moon, smiling eyes and thousands of lanterns. At the end of the Thai lunar calendar, two Buddhist festivals take place to welcome a brighter future- Yi Peng and Loy Krathong. The week leading up to these events is filled with traditions and fun activities such as worshiping rituals and traditional Lanna Thai dance performances.

In the Lanna region of Northern Thailand, the city of Chiang Mai hosts the Yi Peng festival, an annual tradition celebrated by Thais, tourists and monks alike. The date of this festival changes yearly to correspond with a full moon in the Thai lunar calendar, falling this year in November. People decorate khom loy, or sky lanterns, and hang them outside of their houses to symbolize resistance to darkness and an invitation of light into their future. On the night of the full moon, thousands of people gather to make a wish and, together, release their lanterns into the sky.

Around the same time, one of the most important holidays in Thailand occurs – Loy Krathong. Similar to Yi Peng, Loy Krathong sees participants release a floating krathong (a lotus-shaped basket made of plants and flowers that is decorated with lit incense and candles) into the Ping river. Upon releasing their krathong into the river, participants make wishes for the new year and ask forgiveness for mistakes made in the previous one. This event symbolizes the participant’s willingness to let past anger and negative thoughts float away.

Each year, thousands travel from around the world to participate in these culturally rich festivals. With thousands of lanterns rising to illuminate the night sky or thousands of baskets floating peacefully up the Ping river, both festivals promise a breathtaking way to celebrate a brighter future in something like out of a story book.