Loy Krathong Festival

Loy Kratong Festival

As the moon radiates at its fullest on the twelfth lunar month, countless lanterns are set to glide on the waters of the rivers and khlongs. Made from a section of a banana tree trunk embroidered with elaborately folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks, the once dark, still waters come to life as the lanterns glimmer like stars. Fireworks explode in the sky with colors and the Nang Noppamas beauty pageant is held to search for the loveliest lady in the Thai national costume.

Loy means to float and Krathong means a vessel. Held annually on the full moon night of November, the Loy Krathong tradition of setting afloat the krathongs can be traced back to the 14th century in the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai when his favorite consort Nang Noppamas created a lotus-shaped krathong to pay tribute to the Lord Buddha’s footprints on Nammathanathi River in India.

Hands are clasp together in a wai gesture as krathong owners pray to the lighted krathongs that their sins and bad fortune are to be washed away and coins are dropped in the center to beckon good fortune. Pra Mae Khong Kha, the mother of the waters is also asked for forgiveness, for polluting her water.

Modern day versions of krathongs take a step away from using the traditional, natural resources. Styrofoam adorned with colorful paper flowers is commonly used, being accessible and convenient. However, they are deemed harmful to the environment. More eco-friendly choices can be made by selecting krathongs made from decomposable materials such as bread that is beneficial to the water animals or biodegradable starches molded into a krathong. These can be found conveniently in supermarkets and increasingly on sale everywhere.

As a popular festival celebrated throughout the nation, the activities at the Loy Krathong Festival vary among the different provinces in Thailand highlighting their cultural uniqueness. For example, in Chiang Mai, the festival is known as “Yi Peng” following a Lanna tradition of floating Lanna-style fire lanterns (khom fai) up to the sky. An invocation to pay homage to King Ramkhamhaeng begins in Sukhothai before the procession of the Khom Loi or hoisted lanterns and giant krathong procession, also one of the highlights in Ayutthaya. Other activities include cultural and musical performances, krathong and lantern contests, fruit carving contests and sports competitions.

This year in Bangkok, witness the grand procession of 14 boats adorned with lights passing the Krungthep and Krungthon Bridges over the Chao Phraya River from 18.00-20.00 hrs on 2 November under theme “Colors of the Water, Loy Krathong Festival 2009″, an unique collaboration of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).