Loy Krathong, (sometimes spelt ‘loi Krathong’, ‘Loi Grathong’ ‘Loy Kratong, ‘Loy Katong’ ) is an annual event in Thailand. Loy Krathong takes place on the full moon of the 12th lunar month of the Thai lunar calendar (November), it is one of the biggest participation events in Thailand, seconded only by the Thai Songkran Festival.
What happens at Loy Krathong.
On the day of Loy Krathong many people will busy themselves preparing their own krathong, many others will make krathongs and khom fai (floating sky lanterns) to sell. After dusk they take their krathong to the sea, the nearest river, lake or canal and release it onto the water to float away float, a wish is often made during the act.
Loy or Loi means to ‘float’, ‘Krathong’ is the ornately decorated raft which floated on the water.
What is a krathong.
A krathong (see photo below) is basically an ornately decorated raft, they vary in size but commonly they are between 6 – 10 diameter, rather large and splendid krathongs entered in competitions may be several meters in diameter. Krathongs are traditionally made with banana tree trunk as the base and then further decorated with the leaves of banana tree, flowers, candles and incense sticks. Krathongs nowadays are made from various materials such as Styrofoam, plastic, paper and biodegradable bread.
The Act of Loy Krathong.
There are many reasons and theories as to why the Thais celebrate Loy Krathong, the most commonly held belief is that by releasing the krathong on the water you are cleansing yourself of past misdemeanour’s and sins, it is also said to be an act which brings good luck. Other theories are, to ask forgiveness and give thanks to the water goddess Pra Mae Khongkha, to worship the footprint of Buddha Nammathanati River in India. It is believed by some that the Loy Krathong festival originated during the Sukhothai period, and that it was originally a Brahmanical festival. Regardless of reason and theory it is taken seriously in Thailand, as you see in the photo below a lot of respect is paid in the form of a very high Wai gesture when floating the krathongs.
Khom Fai (see photo below) are also floated in to the night sky, Khom Fai are a paper lantern with a fuel cell at their base. The release of Khom Fai, serves the same purpose as releasing a krathong, a sky filled with numerous Khom Fai lanterns is quite a spectacle in itself.
Loy Krathong Beauty Contests.
Loy Krathong is just about always accompanied by a beauty pageant, I don’t know of any reason for this except Thais love beauty contests. Nonetheless these beauty contests are quite unique, besides the women being stunningly beautiful, they are always wearing traditional Thai dress. The beauty contests alone are an insight in to Thai culture, offering traditional Thai dance, traditional dress and not least, traditional Thai Beauties.
Things to watch out for at Loy Krathong.
- Traffic can be chaotic during Loy Krathong, leave early, especially in the tourist hotspots and cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
- Beware of fireworks, there are always fireworks being wielded by children, drunks and just about anybody who wants one.
- Beware of pickpockets operating in the dense crowds.
- Beware of bag and jewelry snatchers.