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Loy Krathong Festival

The annual festival of Loy Krathong (Loi Kratong) is celebrated throughout Thailand on the full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar. It usually falls in November, and in 2010 Loy Krathong falls on November 21st, a Sunday.

The festival is a very popular attraction for tourists but it has a deep spiritual significance to local people and is a very beautiful and romantic ceremony to watch.

In Thai, ‘loi’ means to float and ‘krathong’ is a tiny floating raft about 7 inches (17cm) long. Traditionally these krathong are made of banana tree trunk and are decorated with flowers. More modern versions are made of Styrofoam and decorated with flowers made of bread. The most beautiful krathong are made of intricately folded banana leaves and decorated with real flowers, candles and sticks of incense. These of course are also much better for the environment as they are biodegradable, unlike the Styrofoam versions.

The festival tradition is for these rafts to be released onto a river during the full moon. Restaurants will also host Loy Krathong celebrations on their own ponds.

The origins of the festival may be in the Hindu festival when floating lanterns were released on the Ganges as thanksgiving for the deity of the Ganges giving life throughout the year. This festival was adapted by the Thai Buddhists as a ceremony to honor the original Buddha. As the candles float away they symbolized the letting go of grudges and anger. Some people cut their hair or fingernails and add them to the krathong as a symbolic letting go of the bad parts of their lives. Many Thais believe that floating a krathong creates good luck and they do it to honor the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.



The events which precede the raft floating ceremony are even more fun. Beauty contests are held and are known as ‘Noppamas Queen Contests’. Noppamas was a beautiful consort of the 14th century King Loethai of Sukothai where the first Loy Krathong festival was held. Vegetable carving is another skill associated with the festival. Huge markets are held before the festival and Giant Krathongs are paraded around the streets before being floated.

In Chiang Mai the festival is known as ‘Yi Peng’. Before the festival you can see many beautifully made krathongs for sale in the Chiang Mai markets. The banana leaf krathongs are floated on the waterways of the city to honor the Goddess of Water. Sky lanterns, called ‘khom fai’ consist of a rice paper balloon-like shade with a candle suspended inside. They are carefully lit and launched to float in the air making a picture of serenity as they rise up into the sky like silent boats heading for another world.
Where to celebrate Loy Krathong 2010

Loy Krathong is celebrated nationwide, but is particularly delightful in the provinces of Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Bangkok, where the celebrations are perfect for tourists to get a glimpse of a beloved Thai tradition.

Sukhothai

Among the highly recommended places to participate in the Loy Krathong celebrations is Sukhothai, which, as the birthplace of the festival, remains a focal point of the festivities. The Sukhothai Historical Park provides a dramatic setting for an amazing light and sound show that is truly spectacular.

Chiang Mai

As mentioned above, Chiang Mai is also a very popular destination for Loy Krathong celebrations, where the largest krathongs are colorfully lit and paraded through town on trucks on their way to the river.

Bangkok

Being the major waterway in Bangkok, The Chao Phraya River is one of the main destinations for Loy Krathong celebrations on Bangkok. Many Bangkok riverside hotels hold special celebrations and some have Loy Krathong packages and dinner cruises.

 
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