Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong (Loi Kratong) is a festival held in Thailand on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In western calendar it is usually in November. In 2014 the festival is held on the 7th of November.

"Loi" means "to float". "Krathong" is sort of tiny raft, about a hand span in diameter, usually made from a part of banana tree trunk. Krathong is decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, incense sticks etc. During the night of full moon people release their Krathongs down the river.

Loy Krathong
People releasing their Krathongs down the river

The Loy Krahtong festival most likely has its origin in India. It is quite similar to Deepavali which is thanksgiving to the divinity of the Ganges river. People there release floating lanterns as sign of gratitude for the life throughout the year. As to the writings of H.M. King Rama IV in 1863, the originally Brahmanical festival was adapted by Buddhists in Thailand as a ceremony to honour the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama.

The light of candle on Krathong is a way of honouring the Buddha, but also a symbolic way to let go all the anger, bitter feelings and to start a new life. People also put some of their hair and finger nails on Krahtong. It is a symbol of letting go all of bad parts in personality.

Many Thai people believe that releasing of Krathong down the river will bring them good luck. They do it to honour the Thai Goddess of Water Phra Mae Khongkha.

Government institutions and big businesses build big Krathongs. There are contests where people compete in building of the most beautiful Krathong.

Loy Krathong festival also includes big fireworks and beauty contest called "Noppamas Queen Contests”. There is a legend about it. Noppamas was a spouse of the Sukothai king Loethai in the 14th century. It is believed that she was the first to release decorated krathongs down the river.

Loy Krathong festival is closely associated with tradition of vegetable carving (making sort of sculptures). It is believed that the vegetable carving has started some 700 years ago in northern Thai province of Sukhotai. Sukhotai is also a place where tradition of Loy Krathong actually started.

The most famous Loy Krathong celebrations today are the one in city of Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) and the one in Ayutthaya (Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya) just north of Bangkok.

khom fai
Khom fai lantern

Loi Krathong festival in Chiang Mai is called „Yi Peng“. Thousands of people gather there to release their Krathongs. The festival in Chaing Mai also include Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom fai) which are released in the air. Lanna (“One Million Rice Fields”) was a kingdom that existed around Chiang Mai.