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Loy Krathong

by Dr. David

Loy Krathong , From all the Thai holidays, 2 are known to tourists: Songkran (the Thai new year), which is most famous for its increasingly wild water fights, and Loy Krathong – a lovely, romantic holiday, which I find to be the most moving of all the Thai holidays.

Loy Krathong is celebrated every year on a full moon night, in the 12th month of the Thai moon year. According to our calendar, it is celebrated in one of the evenings between late October and mid-November, and the exact date varies each and every year according to the Thai moon year.

During that evening (and night), the rivers and lakes are full after the rainy season, the weather is very pleasant and the full moon lights up the dark – which contributes to the unique and magical atmosphere of the evening.

Loy Krathong – Loy means to float/sail and Krathong has no suitable English interpretation as it represents a very specific Thai meaning – a unique basket made of banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense sticks and candles.

A few words about Loy Krathong’s history: while there are many legends regarding its origins, the holiday was ‘born’ in the 13th century in the Sukhothai kingdom. The legend tells of a young queen named Nang Noppamas who began the tradition of making the Krafthongs – small rafts from banana leaves – and gracing them with flowers, candles and incense. Then, Nang Noppamas set the Krafthongs to float and sail through the river, hence her name is linked to Loy Krathong festivities to this very day.

The holiday is celebrated on that specific night all across Thailand, as crowds of locals visit rivers and lakes carrying well-lit Krafthongs in their hands and setting them afloat on the water. The most spectacular festivities are held in Sukhothai, Chiang mai and Bangkok.

The Krafthongs are said to carry away the troubles and hardships and some locals place hair strands or fingernails cuts as a symbol of the negative thoughts that will sail away. Sending the Krafthongs across the water, stands for thanking Phra Mae Kongkha, the goddess of the water, and the locals accompany the practice by uttering a desired wish/hope. Some of them fly Khom Loy – well-lit paper balloons into the air.

The festivity areas near the rivers and bodies of water turn into colorful fairs during this special night. They abound with market and food stands, shows for children and other attractions – it’s a whole carnival with lots of music and food.

Loy Krafthong has a theme song which is played all day long across Thailand, and I have written its words using English letters, for your convenience. Its melody is catchy and lyrics are simple and repetitive, so you can surprise the locals by singing along with them and gaining their appreciation (along with big smiles).

As always, I’m attaching a clip that I took during the Loy Krathong festivities in 2012 – in Wat Dann temple on Rama 3 street. For those who are interested, you can use the BRT public transportation and get off at Wat Dann. From there, it’s a very short walking distance.

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