Paul is an American ex-pat who has lived in Thailand for almost 20 years. He has celebrated many Loy Krathong festivals.
Celebrating Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand
Loy Krathong is one of the most important festivals in Thailand. It is celebrated every year during the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. The festival usually falls in November.
In this article, I will first note a few legends about the origin of Loy Krathong. Next, I will explain the meaning of Loy Krathong and what this festival symbolizes, Finally, I will show how a Krathong is made and how my family and other people celebrate Loy Krathong in Thailand.
The Origin of Loy Krathong
Several different legends account for the origin of Loy Krathong.
- One legend states that the festival began in the ancient Sukhotai Kingdom 800 years ago or around 1200 A.D. It was originally associated with water and the Lord Buddha. At that time, King Ram Kampaeng a devoted Buddhist, strongly believed that his subjects should pay tribute to the water goddess and Buddha for all they have given the people. To do this, he chose a night with a full moon after the last monsoon to worship.
- Some legends say that Nang Noppamas, one of the King's consorts, created the first krathong or banana leaf boat that had a light. When she released it on the river during a cruise, the King was overcome by its beauty and proclaimed that Loy Krathong should be celebrated every year.
- Another legend has its roots in the ancient Hindu ritual festival to honor the magical Nagas. They are serpent-like deities living in water that can bring fortune and misfortune to people.
The Significance of Loy Krathong
The Thai celebrate Loy Krathong to worship and ask forgiveness to the goddess of water Ganga and to worship the Buddha hair pagoda in heaven.
To show respect to the river, basically the goddess of the river, Pra Mae KhongKha, the Thai decided to make a Krathong. This Krathong is used to worship and ask for forgiveness, say goodbye to misfortune, wash away past sins, and make good wishes for the following year.
The Krathong symbolizes two things. Its candle and incense sticks venerate Buddha with light and incense. The floating away (loy) symbolizes letting go of one's hatred, anger, and contamination.
How to Make a Krathong
A banana trunk and leaf boat or Krathong is made using the four following steps.
- Take a slice of a banana plant trunk.
- Cut banana leaves and cover the slice of the trunk with them.
- Cut out long strips of banana leaves, fold them into pedals, and attach them to the base of the trunk.
- Decorate the Krathong with flowers such as marigolds and orchids, incense sticks, and a candle.
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How My Family and Other People Celebrate Loy Krathong in Thailand
Since my retirement in Thailand in 2007, my family and I have celebrated Loy Krathong every November. When living in Bangkok, we would go to one of the public parks. They had a small pond where we would float a Krathong.
Now that we are in Udon City in Udon Thani Province, my wife, daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and I celebrate Loy Krathong at Nong Prajak Park. Nong Prajak Park has a large man-made pond around which many Udon residents congregate. At around 5-6 p.m. right before sunset, people start making their way to the park.
My family usually arrives at Nong Prajak between 6–7 p.m. We don't make our Krathongs but many vendors are selling them at the park. My wife can always find a beautifully decorate Krathong for 40 baht or a little over 1 US dollar.
We then take our Krathong to the side of the pond. After lighting the candle and incense sticks on the Krathong, we make a prayer and set it in the water to float.
Nong Prajak Park always has activities on the evening of Loy Krathong. They include bands playing traditional Thai musical instruments and women dressed in colorful sarongs dancing ram, the traditional dance of northeastern Thailand. In the past, I have also seen beauty contests featuring elderly women and variety shows on stage.
All persons throughout Thailand celebrate Loy Krathong. They do this by floating Krathongs on rivers, lakes, and ponds. Several vendors sell food, clothing, and miscellaneous articles nearby making Loy Krathong quite a carnival atmosphere. What makes Loy Krathong very special, however, is that it is an extremely colorful family holiday.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn