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Loy Krathong

What is Loy Krathong & Why is it so Popular and Romantic?

( To see a Pattaya Mail newspaper story about Loy Krathong 2015, click here )

Although not a public holiday, Loy Krathong (also known as the "Festival of Lights") is one of Thailand's oldest, most popular and romantic festivals. It takes place at the end of the rainy season on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar (the time of year when the water levels in rivers and canals is high). In the Western calendar, this is usually in early or mid November (exact date varies year to year). It is a fun, "not-to-be-missed" event - but expect big crowds in public places near water! All over the country, millions of decorated krathongs (traditional banana leaf floats) are set adrift in rivers, on waterways and in the sea. loy_kratong_prayer.jpg

-  Historians speculate that the festival probably originated in India and was based on the "Deepavalee” ritual which is accompanied by floating lights in an act of worship of the Brahmin gods - Brahma, Siva and Vishnu. The exact origins of Loy Krathong in Thailand are not known either, but one of the most common theories is that the tradition started in 13th century Sukhothai (North of Bangkok and one of the most powerful cities in Asia at that time) and the first Krathongs were an offering to Mair Nam (the Goddess of Water). The festival represents the close bond between Thai culture and water. It is to honour and pay respect to the Goddess of Water (Phra Mair Khongkha, or Mair Nam) at the end of the rainy season, thank her for providing life-sustaining water throughout the year and apologize to her for using and/or polluting the water during the past year. It is also to honour Buddha - the candle venerates Buddha with light. Many Thais believe that floating a krathong will bring good luck. The act of floating away the Krathong symbolizes letting go of all one's grudges, anger, grief and bad fortune, so you can start life afresh. Many people try to help their fortune by also placing personal items on the krathong, such as nail clippings or strands of hair. This is because they believe they are putting symbols of their misfortunes during the last year in the krathong, and making them float away will give them the chance of the better 12 months to come. There is the belief that if the krathong floats away from you, the coming year will bring good fortune. If it floats back towards you, then perhaps your luck may not be so good.

ROMANCE - The romance in the festival is provided by a Thai legend that says a girl called Nang Nopamas, a royal consort of King
Ramkhamhaeng (the founder of Sukhothai), made the first Krathong and set it afloat on one of the canals of the palace so that it would drift past her lover the King. The King was delighted and impressed with the creation. This is the origin of the Thai saying that if two lovers set a Krathong adrift and it stays afloat for as long as they can see it, their love will last forever (in other words, they will have good luck together). As a result, Loy Krathong is a big night for lovers. For the romantic at heart and young couples, it is an important time to make a wish for happiness together. Couples can get an insight into the future of their relationship by making or buying one krathong each and watching whether their krathongs stay afloat for as long as they can see them. It is also an important sign whether the two krathongs float together or drift apart. If you believe in luck and romance, joining in is a 'must do'.

MATERIALS - "Loy" means "to float" and a "Krathong" means "a leaf cup or bowl". Traditionally, the base of a krathong is a round float made of a slice of banana tree trunk (about a handspan in diameter), but nowadays it is often made of bread or styrofoam. 
Bread is the most environmentally-friendly choice. The base is usually decorated with beautifully-folded banana leaves in the shape of a lotus in full bloom and colourful flowers. Candles, three incense sticks and some money (coins), as a way of making merit to Buddha, are also added. Governmental offices, businesses and other organizations usually create big decorated rafts for
local decorating competitions - often in the shape of huge lotus flowers, Swans, Chedis (Stupas) and other symbols from Buddhist

HOW TO USE YOUR KRATHONG -  In the evening, after you have bought or made your own krathong, you take it to a river, canal, lake or the beach and prepare to send it away on the water. First, you light the candles and incense sticks, then pray to Buddha, make a wish (wish for a good life and good health, for example), and perhaps ask Mair Kongkla (the Goddess of Water) to forgive you for your sins. After that, send the krathong adrift in the water. 

OTHER ACTIVITIES - The alternative name ("Festival of Lights") comes from the fact that floating tubular Sky "fire" Lanterns (khom fai or khom loy) made of rice paper and resembling hot air balloons are lit and released into the night sky as an offering to Buddha. Beauty contests are often organised during the festival and known as "Noppamas Queen Contests", named after the girl in Sukothai who, according to one of the legends of the origin of the festival in Thailand, was the first to float a decorated raft (krathong). There is usually also folk entertainment and fireworks.

REGIONAL VARIATIONS - Although now celebrated throughout the country, the festival is particularly special in Sukhothai (the place where it is thought the first krathong was set afloat in Thailand). A beautiful sound and light show is the highlight there), Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai.

  • In Chiang Mai (the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom), the festival is celebrated for about a week. Stage shows in huge markets, a parade of giant Krathongs and contestants for the title of Miss Noppamas are the prime highlights. Another festival, the Lanna (northern Thai) lantern festival known as "Yi Peng", is celebrated at the same time where a huge number of Sky "fire" Lanterns (khom fai or khom loy) are lit and released into the night sky. The sky is literally filled with thousands of these bright lights shining like a moving river of stars - a spectacular and memorable sight (see picture).
  • In Northern Thailand generally, it is a time for country-folk to celebrate that the rainy season has ended. After the strenuous labour of ploughing and planting rice for the last three months, the heavy work is now over. They can now wait a month or two for harvest time.
  • In Bangkok, large crowds assemble along the banks of Chao Phraya river and float their krathongs.
  • In Pattaya, Beach Road is always crowded with lots of Thai people setting up tables and home-made stalls to make and sell krathongs to the huge numbers of local people and tourists heading to the beach to take part in the festival. Local children are on the beach to earn some pocket money by taking your krathong out into the sea for you, so it can float away as far as possible (for more luck!). However, due to the tide, krathongs usually do not go very far out to sea. In Walking Street, big decorated krathongs from the local decorating competition are put on display. Also on the beach, there are Sky "fire" Lanterns (khom fai or khom loy) for sale and it is a truly wonderful sight watching hundreds of them float over Pattaya Bay and Pattaya City.

Overall, Loy Krathong really is a very memorable evening!




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