If you’re quick or are already teaching English in Thailand, you might be in time for one of Thailand’s most entrancing festivals – the festival of Loi Krathong. This amazing night-time celebration takes place on the full moon of the 12th lunar month – generally during the first half of November, to translate!
What can I see?
On the evening of the full moon, people flock to rivers and canals, and sometimes even ponds and swimming pools, to launch their lotus-leaf shaped boats – the “krathong” of the festival’s name. (In case you are wondering, “loi” – or “loy” as you will sometimes see it – means “to float”. So the festival of Loi Krathong is the festival to float your krathong boat. Simple, eh?)
The krathongs are traditionally made out of a piece of the trunk of a banana tree and then filled with candles, incense and flowers. The whole of a family may be involved in creating elaborate krathongs during the day, ready to release as night falls, creating a magical procession of light on the water.
Where does this festival originate?
Typical of much of Thai culture, the Loi Krathong festival combines a number of different traditions.
For lots of people, Loi Krathong is a festival of thanks to the goddess of water – sometimes combined with an apology for polluting the waters.
For others the releasing of the boats is a symbolic way of floating away everything bad from the past year, and making wishes for a more positive year to come.
For others still, the Loi Krathong festival is a Buddhist adaptation of an ancient Hindu festival, with the candles used to show respect to the Buddha.
If you’re a couple, making a wish with your partner is thought to lead to long-lasting love – particularly if the boats stay together on the water – cute, we know!
Finally, make sure you watch to see if your candle stays alight until your krathong has disappeared out of sight. If it remains lit, many Thais believe that you should get ready for a year of good luck.
Whatever the beliefs behind it, Loi Krathong is an epic sight.
Where to catch the celebrations…
You can find celebrations of the festival Loi Krathong all over the country, with both Bangkok and Chiang Mai regarded by many as prime viewing spots. However, for us, the perfect place to take part in the Loi Krathong festival is Sukhothai, which lies around 265 miles north of Bangkok. For it is in this striking ancient capital of Thailand that the festival is believed to have originated around seven centuries ago.
Whilst there is some dispute over its exact origins, it is said that the festival first began when one of the king’s wives, or possibly consorts, created a lantern from carved fruit and sent it floating down the river.
However it started, just picture a moonlit scene with thousands of candles slowly drifting down the water. Definitely not to be missed!
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