Every November, Thailand’s rivers, canals, lakes, and ponds, and even sometimes swimming pools and fountains, light up with beautiful floral creations, sending wishes and hopes for blessings and forgiveness into nature.
Loy Kratong, which translates loosely to “floating basket”, is celebrated on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, which usually places it sometime in November.
It coincides with the end of the rainy season, when the bodies of water should be at their fullest. The origins are unclear – it either came from a Brahman tradition of metaphorically washing away your negative traits (by adding a hair or nail clipping to the float) or from a ritual to thank the Goddess of the River for her life-sustaining waters (a coin is added to the float as a “payment”).
The floats are traditionally made from a cross section of a banana tree’s trunk, then decorated with intricately folded banana leaves and flowers, all held together with small sticks. Then, a candle and stick of incense is added, which will be lit with a prayer right before being sent off to sea (or the other side of the swimming pool).
All the components should be bio-degradable to sustain the belief that you are making merit or pleasing the river spirits. Unfortunately, as a sad statement to modernisation, for many years kratongs were made of styrofoam, plastic, and glue as these items were cheaper and easier to mass produce. Now, luckily, this practice is in abeyance, and the more earth-friendly kratongs rule the market. Along with the idea of washing away bad influences and wishing for blessings, there are a few other beliefs. Main among them are these two –First, if you float out a kratong, and it comes back to you, that is a sign of bad luck. So make sure to give your float a little push to get it going! Second, when a couple sets their kratongs out together, if the two floats go in the same direction, then they will have a strong and long-lasting relationship. If the floats separate, well…..
Whether you believe such things or not, Loy Krathong is a fabulous opportunity to see Thailand at its happiest – it occurs during the school holidays, so you will see lots of families out together, enjoying the sights. And no Thai celebration would be complete without fireworks and beauty pageants. And lots and lots of music and food!
And if you happen to be in the North of Thailand during this time, Loy Kratong often occurs at the same time as the Yi Peng festival of the Lanna people. Instead of floats, people light lanterns made of rice paper and bamboo and send them into the sky.
SpiceRoads have many tours that feature rides along and on rivers (in boats). But these two night tours would be idea for Loy Krathong:
Chiang Mai Night Ride (www.spiceroads.com/tours/chiangmai_night_ride)
Bangkok Sunset Ride (www.spiceroads.com/tours/sunset_ride)