In Thailand, sky lanterns known as khom loy or khom fai are sometimes released into the sky to mark special occasions because it is believed the lanterns carry away troubles and bad luck. During Yi Peng it was traditionally monks who released the lanterns, but now anybody can do so.
There are many different types of lanterns available, including khom kwaen, which is a hanging lantern. Those are very beautiful and we saw lots around temples and at house entrances, as decorations, but also as a sign for good luck.
Khom fai are giant paper lanterns released in the daytime during Loy Krathong are filled with smoke to make them rise into the sky and also have firecrackers or noisy firework ‘bombs’ attached to them.
Khom loy are the more general sky lanterns released at night. People release the lanterns from dusk until the early hours of the morning and it is a wonderful sight set against the backdrop of the full moon.
People usually make khom loy from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air, which is trapped inside the lantern, creates enough lift for the khom loy to float up in to the sky.
It is believed that launching one of these balloons can send a person’s bad luck and misfortune away into the air, especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out. Often people will say a short prayer before launching the balloon. Sometimes they will also place their address in the balloon, or write it on the outside. Apparently, anyone who later finds the balloon can then claim money from the sender. In this way the good fortune is shared.
Although the sight of hundreds of lanterns is beautiful, safety isn’t always the main priority in Thailand and not surprisingly there are sometimes accidents. Lanterns can get caught in trees and we saw this happening a few times, but luckily no serious damage happened. That’s why you should only release the lanterns in an open space, away from buildings, cables and trees.
Here is a video I found on YouTube showing the lanterns floating into the sky: