Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong is one of the biggest participated festival in Thailand each year. If you are planning on visiting Thailand in November each year then you will want to see and participate in this.

When does the Loi Krathong festival occur?

The festival of Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, In the Western calendar this usually falls in the month of November, This festival is celebrated through a number of Asian countries that include Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia.

What does Loi Krathong mean?

The term Krathong refers to a piece of banana trunk or banana leafs decorated with flowers and candles. The term Loi translates into float. So loosely translated Loi Krathong means floating banana trunk festival.

The orgin of Loi Krathong

The precise origin of this festival is not really known, but it is generally believed to be in or around the 13th century in Sukhothai by Tao Sri Chulalak or Nang Noppamas. She was one of Phra Ruang’s wives.  She was highly skilled in the making of Krathongs and is believed to have made the first decorated Krathong and gave it to the king of Sukhothai to float along the river.

Others believe that  the origins can be traced back to Brahmanism, to worship the Gods; Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma. This would involve floating lanterns on the water. When Thai people adopted Buddhism, they adapted this ceremony in reverence to the goddess of the Mae Khong river (Mekong).  

What is the festival about?

In preparation for this festival, many Thai’s will create their own tribute floats that they will release to pay tribute to the water goddess. This is celebrated at the end of the rice harvest season and is seen as a way of paying tribute to the water goddess for supplying that years water supply.

Krathongs
Krathongs

How are the Krathongs made?

Many of the tribute floats are made from bread, but some are made from styrofoam. The banana stalk Krathong is also biodegradable. The floats are crafted into the shape of a lotus flower and decorated with flowers and bread. A bread Krathong will disintegrate after a few days and can be eaten by fish. In recent years the use of Styrofoam has been banned in parts of Thailand to help keep the levels of pollution down.

Kratongs
Kratongs

 

What do these look like?

There are numerous contests held to judge the very best Krathongs. Often large corporations will have large Krathongs built for these shows. The size of the Krathong will vary depending on the amount of effort being put in. That being said though, most of the most beautiful Krathongs are often the smallest, but have a vast amount of detail on them.

What happens to the Krathongs?

On the night of the full moon, people will launch their Krathong on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so. They will light the candle and let the Krathong float off into the night. This is often a moment of reflection for many Thai’s as these float off. The Thais now also see it as a time to wave goodbye to misfortune, wash away sins of the past year, and make wishes for the coming year. The shining glimmer on the water is often quite a spectacle to watch as they all float away.

Thai dancing
Thai dancing

Is this the only part to the celebrations?

The celebrations do not end there though. In many locations the festival is accompanied by a fireworks display and some traditional Thai dancing. Depending on where in the country you are, there may even be a parade as part of the celebrations as people head to the local river or canal to launch the Krathongs.

Is this the same as Yi Peng?

In essence both of these religious festivals occur at the same time and occur for the same reasons. Yi Peng has a slight difference in the fact that lanterns are released instead of floats. Yi Peng is celebrated in Chiang Mai mainly and it is not uncommon for the skies of Chiang Mai to be lit up with thousands of lanterns during this festival. This also symbolises the release of ill feelings and bad luck and is a way for many Thai's to pray for better times ahead.

What happens to the Krathongs and Lanterns after the event?

Once the Krathongs have floated off, the clean up operation can begin. As most of the time these Krathongs are all biodegradable as they are made from banana leafs and bread. This often will be eaten by the fish and other wildlife which makes the clean up a little easier. But there is still a lot of styrofoam to be cleaned up as this does not break down. This operation can often take days to complete which is why the styrofoam Krathongs have been banned in some parts of Thailand. The lanterns that are released are often made from lightweight rice paper placed over a bamboo frame. They too are biodegradable meaning that where they land they will break up quickly. 

This festival is one of the most unique in all of Thailand and is one I would highly recommend that you see. If you want to plan your trip to see this then you can book your flights through skyscanner and hotel through Agoda. this will save you money and make it easy to plan your time during these events.

 

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