Sky lantern is essentially a small hot air balloon made out of paper that has a wire construction at the bottom where the fire is. Fire generates hot air, which is lighter than the cold air, and it lifts the lantern. It originated in the Asia where is traditionally used in festivals or for play. Historians agree that sky lantern was first used in the 3th century BC in China for signaling between the troops. Myth says that military strategist Zhuge Liang (also known as Kongming) used it for the first time to write a message on it and let it to the sky, to summon the help when the enemy surrounded him. Because of this, they are also known as Kongming lanterns. Other myth says that Kongming lanterns are called like that because they look like hat with which is Zhuge Liang often represented on illustrations.
After its invention, it became popular with children (and with the adults) during the festivals. In China, they are released during the Lantern Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. Taiwan has its own Lantern Festival when hundreds of sky lanterns are released into the night with wishes and prayers written on them. In Thailand, on a very important festival Yi Peng, people release many sky lanterns because they believe it will bring them good luck. In addition, many Thai believe that when they set lantern flying, they are releasing they worries and problems away. If you give sky lantern to a monk, you will receive enlightenment because it’s believed that lanterns will show the way to the knowledge. In Brazil, sky lanterns are characteristic of winter holidays when people are releasing lanterns of all sizes even one or two meters in diameter.
Sky lanterns are nowadays becoming a very popular even in non-traditional celebrations like birthdays, parties and weddings. That’s with a good reason - hundreds flying sky lanterns in the night sky looks really beautiful. However, they can be dangerous. If a hot air gets cold while a flame is weak but still burning, sky lantern can land and cause a fire. If the wind is too strong, lantern can tilt and catch fire, fall on something flammable like woods or buildings. It can also present danger for flying airplanes. Some companies that produce sky lanterns changed materials from which they make lanterns into non-flammable variants to lessen the chance of lantern catching fire. Some countries have banned use of sky lanterns because of these dangers.
Whether you use sky lanterns for communication with troops or for communication with heavens, they remain pretty sight - as long they do not cause any damage.