Last week, Thailand celebrated Loy Krathong, the nationwide festival which takes places each year on the full moon of the 12th lunar month.
The locals release little candlelit floats (krathongs) in their hundreds of thousands onto rivers, canals and off beaches as a symbolic gesture of gratitude and apology to the river Goddess, Pra Mae. The process also washes away the individual’s negativity, anger and even past transgressions.
Loy Krathong coincides with the Lanna (Northern Thai) Festival, Yi Peng. In this festival, locals set off sky lanterns into the night skies as their own way of making merit. Over time, the two ceremonies have combined, producing a mystical and rather beautiful event, which is played out all over the country.
The Loy Krathong day starts with prayers before everyone retires home to prepare their float. Early evening, people gather for the main ceremony.
Floats are traditionally made of banana tree stem and decorated with leaves, flowers, incense sticks and candles. It’s good business for the industrious, with large numbers of krathong sellers lining the walkways down to the water, offering their home made creations in different styles and sizes at 50bt to 100bt.
People add coins to their floats, strands of hair and even nail clippings, these last two bizarre items symbolizing bad thoughts and deeds. A couple, meanwhile, might buy two floats and interpret their drifting either together or apart as symptomatic of the relationship in the year ahead.
The Evening of Loy Krathong
As the evening progresses, the festival area becomes packed as everyone troops back and forth from the water’s edge, releasing their krathong.
Krathong released, you can then mill around the numerous food stalls, You’ll find all the normal suspects from noodle soups, to grilled chicken and sticky rice. Try too the delicious hoi tawt (the famous street snack of mussels and beansprouts fried in batter).
Whilst eating, there’s normally some traditional dance and music from a central stage, with instruments like the ranad-ek (the things that look like xylophones).
Group krathongs are entered into ‘Best of Show’ competitions and nowadays, beauty pageants have also become part and parcel of the evening’s entertainment. All of itt keeps the local dignitaries busy with judging and handing out the gongs.
Other countries around Thailand have their own version of the festival. Laos sometimes combines it with their traditional boat races along the Mekong, a fabulous sight if you are lucky enough to be in Vientiane at that time.
Loy Krathong in Koh Kood
This year, we celebrated things in Koh Kood at the beach known as Ao Tapao, home to resorts like Shantaa and Koh Kood Paradise. A great local event with Thais, Cambodians and some tourists all setting off lanterns and floating boats, we also got a loud and pretty impressive firework display. That over, the dancing on the main stage commenced, great fun for all involved.
Perhaps best of all, dark as it was, we watched our little 100bt krathong slowly but steadily wend its way out to sea, bobbing about hopefully on the waves, That it didn’t immediately washing back up on the beach at my feet seemed a good omen for the year ahead.
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