Loy Krathong Festival

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Every year on the evening of the full moon during the twelfth lunar month, the festival of Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout all of Thailand. It comes at a time when the rainy season has come to an end and all of the fields and rivers are overflowing their banks. Thai people throughout the country pay respect to the spirits of the water in a festival commonly known as the Festival of Light.

The festival itself is a sort of cleansing of the spirit. Whereas the passing rains have cleansed the land, so to can that same water cleanse the souls of those who choose to celebrate. One can merely cast adrift the bad luck of the previous year by floating a krathong out from the shore.

The krathong is a small boat that is traditionally crafted from a slice from a banana tree trunk. It is intricately decorated with leaves and flowers, then topped off with incense and candles. Back in the day, each person would craft their own krathong. Nowadays, you can purchase them by the side of the road during the festival. It takes a lot of the fun out of the holiday, but I won’t deny that it makes it a whole lot easier.

Releasing a Krathong at the Loy Krathong Festival

Releasing a Krathong at the Loy Krathong Festival

Often times you will find competitions to determine the best krathong design. These special krathong’s are intricately designed works of art that always put my ill conceived krathong to shame. Don’t worry if your krathong is not beautiful, so long as it floats, it will do the job just fine.

In order to ensure that you have good luck in the coming days, you must put pieces of your hair and clippings of your fingernails inside the krathong. Many people will also put a few coins into the boat in order to more easily persuade the spirits to change their fortunes. This of course leads to many young opportunists scavenging in the water, pocketing all of that bribe money.

Before releasing your krathong, it is important to light the sticks of incense and all of the candles. This can be problematic on the best of days considering waterways don’t typically have a lot of shelter from the wind. Once everything is lit, push the krathong out into the water. If your krathong moves into the water and away from the shore, it is good luck. If it should come back to you, well, not so good.

Floating Lamps at the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai

Floating Lamps at the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai

In addition to the krathong’s, you will notice many people launching lanterns, known as khom loy in Thai. These have the same purpose as the krathong, to carry away your misfortunes. Light the candle and hold the lantern until it is filled with hot air. You will know it is ready to release when it struggles to free itself from your grasp. Of course you will want to release these lanterns away from trees and buildings, it is a paper bag full of fire after-all. Watch in awe and amazement as hundreds or maybe thousands of these floating fireballs rise up into the sky and out of your sight.

The Loy Krathong Festival is a beautiful time of year where people all across Thailand will join in and celebrate the end of the rainy season. It is a great time to be in Thailand and a festival that you should experience at least once in your life.

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Loy Krathong, The Festival of Lights