Loy Krathong is Thailand’s very own ‘festival of lights’. A national event, it is held annually on the evening of the 12th lunar month, usually in the first half of November. Celebration involves various rituals at the Buddhist temples around Chiangmai, but the most famous and popular part is the launching of a krathong – a floating lantern carrying candles and joss sticks, as well as all of your wishes. As any large body of water is illuminated with thousands of little lights, it creates a magical, wondrous sight.
How to Take Part in the Festival
In the hours preceding sunset, you’ll notice many makeshift stalls selling krathongs along the streets of Phuket. Buy one (or make one, if you’re feeling creative) for each person in your party. These flower-covered mini-floats, complete with candles and incense sticks, often resembling lotus flowers, are an essential part in promoting good fortune during the festival. As the sun dips below the horizon and the full moon begins to rise into the night sky, take your krathong to the nearest beach, lake or similar watery area and release it with the outgoing tide or current. The belief is that if the krathong floats away from you, the coming year will bring good fortune, if it floats back towards the shore, then perhaps your luck may not be quite as you had wished. How to Ensuring Good Fortune Comes Your Way On releasing the kratong, you can help your fortunes along a little by placing personal items on the floating platform. Some put nail clippings or strands of hair into it and the sins of the past year will be washed away. Coins are also often placed inside as a way of making merit. For the romantic at heart and young couples, Loi Krathong is the time to make a wish for happiness together and success in love. The Origins of Loy Krathong A festival of quiet celebration, the origins of Loy Kratong are unclear, but it is believed that it started in Sukhothai (north of Bangkok) about 800 years ago, when the city was one of the most powerful in Asia. The name is a very descriptive one: “Loy” means ‘to float’ and a “krathong” is a leaf cup or bowl. Made from the cellulose trunk of a banana tree, the idea behind the kratongs is to put all your misfortunes in a boat, and allow them to literally float away. Great care is taken to decorate the kratongs with flowers and banana leaves, leaving room for the candles and 3 sticks of incense. Loy Krathong always falls on Thai school holidays, so the whole family are often involved in making elaborately decorated Kratongs during the day. Some coins, a lock of hair, or nail clipping are placed inside to represent the owner before the kratong is launched on a river, canal, or the sea, accompanied by a prayer. It’s believed the “boat” will carry your bad luck into the distance, and enable a better start to the following year. Loy Kratong is a big night for lovers. Couples who make a wish together on this day will enjoy long-lasting love, especially if their kratongs remain together on the water. While Loy Kratong is not strictly a religious festival, some Thais believe that it pays homage to the water goddess, Mae Khongkha. Whatever the significance, it’s a magical “not-to-be-missed” event.