Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand and indeed other countries in the region. It is regarded as one of the most colourful and picturesque festivals in the Buddhist calendar. Buddhists celebrate the goddess of water and the end of the traditional rainy season by releasing Krathongs into the seas, rivers, lakes and even canals around Thailand. The small rafts that are usually made of a piece of the banana tree trunk and decorated with flowers, candles and incense.
When is Loy Krathong?
The festival is held each year on the eve of the twelfth lunar month which is usually in November but occasionally falls at the end of October. It is believed that on this day, the full moon lights up the night sky as it will be free from rain clouds after the rainy season has passed. In 2019, the eve of the twelfth lunar month is on Wednesday 13 November.
Around Pattaya, in rivers, at Mabprachan Lake and into the sea, there will be thousands of Krathongs released. On a clear evening, the Krathongs can be seen flickering in the distance, which is a truly remarkable sight if it is something that you haven’t witnessed before. It is common for lanterns also to be released although the authorities are trying to crack down on this potentially dangerous activity although; this too is an impressive spectacle.
What is the History Behind Loy Krathong?
Loy Krathong is celebrated for many reasons, and indeed the specific reasons may vary from province to province, so it’s exact origins are quite hard to establish. In most central and northern regions, it is to celebrate the end of the main rice harvest. Thanks are given for an abundance of water that has led to a successful crop that will provide food and money for the rest of the year. Also, people will apologize for polluting the waters to grow their crops and ask for forgiveness before next year’s rice is planted.
In other areas of the country, the belief is that the releasing of the Krathongs is symbolic of releasing all your anger and grudges. Often this includes placing a lock of hair or a fingernail on your Krathong as this reflects the removal of the “dark side” of yourself and letting all negative thoughts flow away. In the past, Krathongs were always released into rivers or klongs (canals), but these day’s larger expanses of water are equally as suitable.
If the candle on your Krathong continues to flicker until it goes out of sight, this is viewed as a sign of good luck that will continue throughout the year. Luck, both good and bad, is central to the Buddhist way of thinking so this releasing of the Krathong with a burning candle shouldn’t be dismissed as this can cause a significant amount of offence.
Other Activities Related to Loy Krathong
Water and Krathongs naturally from the central part of the festival. Still, as we touched upon earlier, the releasing of lanterns has in previous years played a role in the celebrations. Other more traditional cultural activities such as the Ram Wong dance are performed as well as competitions for who can build the most impressive Krathong. In recent years, many villages include a beauty contest as part of their celebrations, although the feelings regarding this element of the festivities are somewhat mixed.
What is a Krathong and What are They Made Of?
There is no direct translation in English for Krathong and most foreigners (farang) the term is now adopted with everyone knowing to what it refers. To use the loosest possible description, it is a small boat; raft or container that will be decorated with banana leaves and flowers with a candle carefully placed in the centre.
If you don’t have time to make a Krathong, there will be many shops and market stalls that will be selling pre-made ones. Some will be partially made, and some will be completed, so you have the option available if you want to make some additions and add your personal touches. Usually, the Krathongs are made from natural ingredients, something that is important as apologizing for and not polluting the waterways in a crucial part of the festival.
How to Make a Krathong
The Krathong is usually made from a section of a banner tree trunk that is approximately 3cm thick. The first process involves fitting a banana leaf around the trunk that should be folded into the shape of a lotus flower. It is not very easy, and many people buy the trunk with the banana leaves already attached and decorate the Krathong from there.
The most common decorations include coconut shells, flowers, baked bread as well as more banana leaves that have been folded to resemble lotus flowers. Often people with add turtles or other creatures for release back into the wild as there is a belief that this will bring them good luck.
Most of the Thai ladies will be dressed in traditional Thai dress, something that is very beautiful and impressive if you are seeing it for the first time. Elaborate dress jewellery will also be worn, and this is something that you will see many ladies in the bars wearing on Loy Krathong night. The dress is far less practical for releasing Krathongs as it goes down to the feet and offers very little freedom of movement.
Where Can You Float a Krathong in Pattaya?
You can quite literally float a Krathong anywhere where there is water although the most popular places are Mabprachan Reservoir, Chaknork Reservoir, Pattaya Beach and Jomtien Beach. These places will get extremely busy, and parking can be challenging, so it is worth taking this into account when you are making your plans. Thais often have their own ideas where they would like to go, so it is worth listening to the special people in your life.
Loy Krathong is one of the most colourful and impressive festivals in Thailand. It is worth taking some pictures to remember the day by as you will no doubt have an enjoyable experience, especially if it is your first time.