A few weeks ago was the Thai Loi Kratong festival. This can also be called the “Festival of Lights”, “Loy Krathong”, or “Roy Krat(h)ong”. English spelling is not a strong point in Thailand.
My co-workers asked me all week what I planned to do for the festival. I responded, “I don’t know. Where should I go?”
“Oh, there are many places to go. You can go anywhere,” was the standard response.
I then returned to beating my head against the wall and tweeting my frustrations.
Other friends told me they knew of wonderful celebrations, but refused to tell me where they were because as a confused Farang, I would get lost or trampled in the crowd.
In the end, I gathered that the festival took place anywhere there was a body of water, and thankfully in Bangkok there is no shortage of ponds and rivers. There’s a pond/lake near one of my train transfers, so I decided to go there – walking about 10 minutes to the park and my destination. Unfortunately, there was a series of missed connections so I spent the evening taking photos on my own, trying to piece together what I saw. Later, I went home to find out what I had just witnessed, and edit the photos.
Most of the information I share comes from this website.
What I saw:
Lots of families buying lotus-shaped floating creations, with candles in the middle. These small boats, usually about the size of a dinner plate, are lit and set to float on the pond/lake/river/stream or canal after sunset. Some of these little boats are made from plastic-like cloth, while others come from lotus leaves and flowers, still others are made of bread – creating a snack for the fish swimming below. There is a a great deal of excitement around this ceremony, with the royal family sailing down the Chao Praya river on the Royal Barge, traditional music and food served throughout the city. While many Thais participate in the ceremony, many told me the were too busy that day, it was not that big of deal. Those that did participate, buying Krathongs and lighting them along a river or pond, told me it was to bring them good luck.
In Chiang Mai, Loi Krathong also includes the setting free of thousands of lit floating lanterns, such as from these photos, courtesy of American Expat Chiang Mai:
and Nok Aviation:
What I learned:
Loi Krathong is not actually a Buddhist festival, but was adopted from old-style Thai culture when they worshiped the gods Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma, in the Brahmin religion. The festival was was adapted to Buddhism, changed to honor and worship the cremated bones of the Buddha when Thailand became a Buddhist country. It is said the floating of the Krathongs along a river honors the footprint of the Buddha in Thailand.
Finally, from www.loikrathong.net:
We can conclude the reasons for Loi Krathong in Thailand that:-
1. To ask for forgiveness Pra Mae Khongkha because we use and drink water. Moreover, we often throw rubbishes and excrete wasted things in the water.
2. To worship the foot-print of the Buddha on Nammathanati River beach in India.
3. To fly away misfortune and bad things like floating sin- Bhrama ceremony.
4. To pay respect to Uppakhud whom mostly northern villagers show their gratitude for. According to legend, he was a monk who had supernatural to kill Mara.
Krathong could be made from anything else such as banana leaves, banana trunks, coconut barks, paper, and etc. Stuck with incense stick and candle to make a wish and float it in the river.