Loy Krathong is a unique Thai festival when you can send your bad luck, guilt, negativity and pretty much everything rotten about your life down the river or out to sea.
Full Moon – Sunday evening, 17th November.
‘November full moon shines,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
and the water’s high in the river and local klong,
Loy Loy Krathong, Loy Loy Krathong,
Loy Krathong is here and everybody’s full of cheer,
We’re together at the klong,
Each one with his krathong,
As we push away we pray,
We can see a better day.’
(An English translation of an old Thai children’s song)
The tradition of Loy Krathong has been observed in Thailand for no less than 700 years since the Sukhothai period (1238 – 1438). It is based on a Hindu tradition of thanking the Water Gods for the waters (Pra Mae Khongkha) or as homage to the legendary footprint the Buddha left on the bank of the River Narmada in India.
One year, a beautiful woman called Noppamas, who was the chief royal consort, made some special lanterns for the festival. She made them from banana leaves and shaped them like lotus flowers. The King was impressed and announced that Krathongs would be floated on the water every year.
Loy (float) Krathong (container) occurs on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, which is November 17th this year. The full moon shining on waterways which are flooded after the rainy season makes this one of the most beautiful and popular festivals in Thailand.
During the evening, many people will go to their local klong (canal) or river to float their Krathongs. They believe this will bring them good luck and is a symbolic way of letting go of all grudges, anger, and negative thoughts so they can start their life fresh on a better foot.
Krathongs contain a flower, a candle and three incense sticks which are lit before being placed on the water. In the old days people also trim their nails and put a bit of hair in the Krathong, wishing that it will take the bad luck and illness away. A few added coins may appease the great water gods. The people usually make a wish at the same time. Some people believe that if the candle remains burning until the Krathong is out of sight then their wish will come true. Alternatively couples release one Krathong each, hoping they will float away together, a sign of everlasting love.
By the end of the evening, there are hundreds of flickering lights bobbing up and down on the water. Quite often there are also firework displays as well as shows. Overall it is a really memorable evening. On the beach, a more modern trend is to release flying lanterns and a pretty impressive sky can be seen at night.
The memory of that woman who made the first Krathong is often remembered in beauty contests called “The Noppamas Queen Contest”.
Around Hua Hin and Cha – Am there will be plenty of eating and partying at local venues. Just head for the beaches and waterways to be involved. The most popular locations for local people is where a waterway flows into the sea. Krathongs then start their journey in the waterway before heading out to the open ocean.
What the Kids Say About Loy Krathong
Wararat: “On Loy krathong Day the moon was full in the sky. I made a krathong to float on the river. Then my family went to the river by motorcycle. I saw many people come to float their krathongs on the river to thank the Mother of Water. I lighted the incense sticks and candle in my krathong and I took a vow. After, I played fire crackers with my brother. Then, we went to watch the Miss Noppamas Competition.”
Sunatee: “Loy Krathong means to float a banana leaf cup on water. We do this to ask Mother of Water to forgive us for polluting the water. On Loy Krathong Day there is a full moon in the sky and there is full water in the river. We float our krathong in the river with our parents. On Loy Krathong Day we feel very happy.”
Sasiprapa: “Yesterday was Loy Krathong Day. I made a krathong with my aunt. I used banana leaves to make my krathong. I decorated my krathong with flowers. I played fire crackers with my brother. I then put 1 baht in my krathong. I lighted the candle and incense sticks and as I floated it on the river I made a vow.”
Make Your Own Krathong
You will find Krathongs for sale by vendors wherever there is water. However for the personal touch and especially for children, making your own results in the festival being even more memorable. You will need access to a ‘slice’ of a banana trunk for authenticity, but any base that is stable and floats will work.
- Cut a slice of banana trunk (around 20 to 30 mm thick) – this will be the Krathong’s base. Banana trunk is recommended because it easily serves as the Krathong’s natural floating base.
- 2. Attach some leaves of banana around the sliced banana trunk with the leaves are pointing upward. Use small pins to hold the leaves into place.
3. Attach another layer of banana leaves but this time attach the leaves over the joins of the first layer.
4. Trim the lower parts of the banana leaves so that they are level with the base of the sliced banana trunk.
5. Beautify your Krathong with flowers until only a small space is left to place a candle and other items.
7. Finish the Krathong by placing a small candle, three incense sticks and some coins on the base. Betel nuts are optional additions. The candle stick will serve as a light as the ceremony is celebrated at night. Candles and incense sticks are used to drive away bad spirits and coins symbolise prosperity. Betel nuts serve as food offering to the gods. You can add your own personal ‘symbols’ in keeping with the spirit of the occasion.
Finally set alight the candle and incense sticks and set it free on the water. Think about letting go of any anger, grudges and other negative feelings. A great start to the new season to come.