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Loy Krathong Festival

posted: 2009-11-04

An offering to the water spirits

Lotus Style KrathongLotus Style Krathong
One of the most popular Thai festivals is the Loy Krathong Festival, falling on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month - in 2009 on the 2nd of November. The festival derives from a Hindu festival in which offerings were made every year to the Goddess of the River Ganges, sacred river of India. It came to Thailand probably during the Sukhothai period.

In Thailand it has come to be a purification festival, a letting go of the transgressions of the previous year, but with also a sense of making an offering to the spirits of the river, and Mae Khongkha, goddess of the rivers.

The Krathongs are small boats, originally made of banana leaves formed into the shape of a Lotus flower. Sometimes a round section of banana tree is used as a base, though in recent years a circle of expanded polystyrene, or bread has become popular.

The basic boat is then decorated with flowers, leaves, incense sticks and a central candle; coins are placed within the interior - a matter of considerable interest to the small children who flock to the event. The completed krathong are then floated ("loy" means "launch"), candles lighted, on the main rivers and canals. Unfortunately the large catfish who abound near the temple piers have wised to the fact that some of the krathong are edible and tend to demolish the fragile offerings almost as soon as they go into the water, as happened this year in the case of my friends' krathong at Wat Lan Buhn, in Bangkok's Lat Krabang district.

Glum Faces for Loy KrathongGlum Faces
After the unsuccessful launch, we sat in a restaurant on the other side of the canal, eating food, drinking beer, and watching the crowds flowing over the bridge. The glum looks from my friends may be because of the Krathong catastrophe - some Thai women seem to believe that the behavior of the krathong reflects the future of their own relationships: if two krathong float together and remain together, all is well; woe betide if they float apart. I have known anxious males surreptitiously tie the vessels together with string to ensure a fortunate outcome. Unfortunately catfish ignore such tricks and my friends, perhaps inevitably, have since divorced.

This colourful festival, which often includes traditional Thai Dancing, is celebrated throughout Thailand: in Bangkok at parks, restaurants and hotels, and especially by the River and Canal Bridges and Temples; most events take place between 6 p.m. and midnight.

The Bridge at Wat Lan Buhn at Loy KrathongThe Bridge at Wat Lan Buhn


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