Loy Krathong (pronounced Loy Kra-tong) is a very good-natured festival held in Thailand, in November every year. Technically, the date is calculated at the 12th moon in the Thai Lunar Calendar, but it does vary from year to year, so if you are interested in seeing this 3-day festival whilst in Thailand, you should check your dates before you come!
Origin of Loy Krathong
Considering the goings-on at Loy Krathong it’s no surprise that the festival is thought to originate from the Hindu festival of Lights, Diwali (or Divali) – Loy Krathong revolves around lights, candles, and water. Loy Krathong literally translates as ‘float’ (Loy) and ‘raft’ (Krathong), and the main event at Loy Krathong is to literally ‘float rafts’ – you have to love how simplistic the Thais are in naming their festivals, everything is very to the point!
Krathongs are rafts which can be made out of natural materials such as banana leaves, and even bread, and which are decorated with vibrant orchids and other tropical flowers and leaves. They always contain a candle to light, and often beautiful smelling incense sticks to burn. Once the candles on the rafts are lit, the Krathongs are floated into bodies of water – be it a river, lake, the sea or pools at local temples or Wats – and the one who launches the raft makes a wish for prosperity and good fortune for the coming year.
The Meaning of Loy Krathong
The idea behind the launching of the raft is two-fold – first, it is designed to pay respect to the Thai Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha, as the beautiful Krathong rafts are gifts to her. The rafts also act as an apology from all who launch them for any harm which may have been done during the past year, particularly to the bodies of waters. The raft is also a symbolic release of any bad energies and karma that has accumulated throughout the past year and represents a clean start for those launching the rafts.
As well as in the Northern city of Chiang Mai, Loy Krathong is also big business in Bangkok, with the Government and corporations sponsoring firework displays and launching giant illuminated boats up and down the Chao Phraya River, to mix in with the most basic of Krathongs which have been launched by the poorer people living on the banks of the river.
In some parts of Thailand in addition to launching rafts, the Thais also launch a kind of candle-fuelled sky lantern up into the sky. When the hundreds of lanterns are all lit together it’s a wonderful sight to behold, as is Loy Krathong in general.
This festival is very peaceful, particularly when compared to some of the rowdier festivities such as Songkran. There is much more dignity to Loy Krathong, however, and a visit to Thailand when this short festival is taking place is highly recommended.
Loy Krathong dates for the years you wish to travel in can be found out at the Tourism Authority of Thailand website, www.tat.or.th