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Loy Krathong

Updated: 2014-08-01 / (bangkoktourist.com)


[Photo from bangkoktourist.com]

Loy Krathong is held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.

"Loy" means "to float". "Krathong" is a raft, about a hand span in diameter, traditionally made from a section of banana tree trunk. A raft has been developed to be made of bread or sometimes made of Styrofoam. The reason for using bread is to protect the environment,since having many rafts in the river can create a huge water pollution problem. Bread will eventually become food for fish and other animals in the river. Even though banana leaves are biodegradable, it takes longer to be degraded than a bread. Therefore, bread is the most environmental friendly choice to make a raft whereas foam is not recommended at all. A raft is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, incense sticks etc.

During the night of the full moon, many people will float a small rafts (Krathong) on a river or other body of water, such as canals, lakes and seas. Some people even float a raft (Krathong) in a basin in their own yard. Thai people believe that floating a raft on the river is to honor and pay respect to the goddess of water. Also, floating a raft in the river is to apologize to the Goddess of the Water for the bad things we have done to the river during the past year. That is why Loy Krathong festival is held at the end of the year. Governmental offices, corporations and other organizations usually create big decorated rafts. There are also local and officially organised raft (Krathong) competitions, regarding its beauty and craftmanship. In addition, there are also fireworks and beauty contests during the celebration of the festival.

According 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. Apart from venerating the Buddha with light (the candle on the raft (Krathong)), the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot. People will also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a raft (krathong) will bring good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha

The beauty contests that accompany the festival are known as "Noppamas Queen Contests". According to legend, Noppamas was a consort of the Sukothai king Loethai (14th century) and she was the first to float a decorated raft (krathong).

The Thai tradition of Loy Kratong started off in Sukhothai, but is now celebrated throughout Thailand, with the festival in Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya being particularly well known; apart of course from its original city. In the northern part of Thailand, in addition to creating "krathong" people also celebrate the festival with "Kom Loy". People usually create "Kom Loy" from a thin fabric and let the air get inside so that "Kom Loy" can go up in the air like a balloon. This tradition is called "Yi Peng" meaning to celebrate goodness (tam-boon) in the 12th month in Thai lunar calendar. "Yi Peng" festival attracts many tourists both foreigners and Thai people from other parts of Thailand to join and see "Kom Loy" goes up in the air.

Loy Kratong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as "Yi Peng". Due to a difference between the old Lanna calendar and the Thai calendar, "Yi Peng" is held on a full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar. A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom fai or khom loy) are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky. The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom. The tradition has also spread to certain parts of Laos during the 16th century.

Kelantan also has the same celebration, especially in the Tumpat area. The ministry in charge of tourism in Malaysia recognizes it as an attraction for tourists. Many people visit the celebration each year.


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