By Nicôle Rossetti le Strange
Although my partner and I first came to Chiang Mai in March 2012,
this will actually be our first Yi Peng festival, and I must say that I am
really looking forward to it, not least because we’ll be celebrating with a
group of very dear friends... and that is always a Very Good ThingTM!
The Mae Jo release of Khom Loy for the Lanna festival of Yi Peng falls on
November 16th this year. As well as making merit (tham bun) – doing good
works, giving a gift to Buddha, helping others, etc. – Yi Peng is probably
best known for the khom loi (floating lanterns) which fill the moonlit sky.
The lanterns are usually made from rice paper, with a candle inside; as the
air within becomes warm, the lanterns float up into the sky, taking with
them your hopes and wishes for the coming year, taking away bad luck you may
have had, and perhaps most importantly, taking your love to Buddha. And
because Chiang Mai is the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, we have the
biggest, best, and most elaborate decorations, of course! I get the distinct
feeling that the entire city will be aglow!
After a garden party at my friend’s house in Doi Saket, we’ll all be heading
out to MaeJo University for the celebration; there is some debate at the
moment as to whether we want to drive to the festival, or just walk the two
kilometres! I’m definitely in favour of walking - and not just because I
need all the exercise I can get(!) – I suspect that if we walk, we’ll meet
up with other people along the way. There is something rather heart-warming
about groups of strangers joining up to attend a gathering together... it
gives a very definite sense of inclusion. Like New Year’s Eve at Trafalgar
Square in London, only with less alcohol!
When we came to Chiang Mai last year, we only stayed for six months (before
heading off to live in Morocco, and then India), and although we joined in
with Songkran (which was awesomely fun), and felt as though we could make a
home here, this year it’s completely different. From the moment we arrived
at CNX in June, it felt like we had come home. At least, for me, it did!
As far as I am concerned, Chiang Mai is home, and part of the reason I am
looking forward to Yi Peng is that it will be the icing on my cake of
belonging! I’ve never wanted to settle anywhere in my life; in 50 years, I
have lived in 43 different places, so for Chiang Mai to feel like home, it’s
a big, big thing for me.
During Yi Peng, I will be releasing my khom loi, not to send away any bad
luck (because frankly, I haven’t had any) but to send thanks for being able
to live in the most incredible, friendly, and welcoming city in the world,
and for having so much love in my life!