A major festival takes place in Thailand in November, which is celebrated across the country.
This is the Loy Krathong Festival. Surely one of the most attractive events in the Thai festival calendar, the Loi Krathong is a mixture of popular tradition, beauty and historical significance.
Without doubt the staged shows and displays in Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai make it a great scene for the tourists, but behind the shows on the rivers, there is a real and genuine celebration which dates back centuries.
The basis of the event is a Krathong, which is placed into a river from the riverside to float away for as long as it can. So, what is a Krathong? It’s a lotus shaped ‘boat’ made from banana palm leaves and garlands of flowers, with a candle and incense at the centre.
Sometimes small gifts and hair are placed on board the Krathong . In these modern times the craft has a polystyrene base, which does help its ‘floatability! The candle is lit when the Krathong is sent on its journey.
Krathongs vary in size, from the huge constructions used in the parades with contenders for a beauty competition sitting at the centre, to individual small and personal Krathongs which can be bought from vendors, usually near a river.
Looking at the river full of "Kra thong"
About to let the Kra Thong float on the river
Typically in Bangkok, at the Skytrain station Saphan Taksin, and right on the Chao Phrya River, there are plenty of stalls selling Krathongs for the festival. The idea then is to go to the river in the evening and with some prayers for a long and lucky trip, release your Krathong into the river.
Greater luck comes with a Krathong which has gone a long distance, rather than crashing into the first obstacle it comes across.
The scene in Chiang Mai, for instance is fantastic as most of the local population gather at the banks of the Ping River to send their lucky Krathongs on their way.
These small craft, lit with a small candle flame float down river in their thousands, making for a beautiful and dramatic scene.
The history and legends about the festival come from a mixture of tales from statements made by the Siam Kings, Buddhist writings and general popular myths which have developed over the centuries.
Factually, the event goes back some 700 years and is always celebrated on the night of the 12th Lunar Month Full Moon in November.
It is an auspicious Buddhist day, so these facts are the driving force behind the festival. Historical writings also refer to a great lantern festival on the day of the Full Moon in this region.
After that, it gets slightly vague with significance given to this being the end of the rainy season, and thanks given to The Goddess of Water for providing the rain for the crops.
Many Kra Thong in the river.
Praying before Loy Kra Thong
There is the idea that your are pushing away bad luck and good luck will come with a successful river journey. But whatever the reasons, this is a great community celebration and one which is genuinely enjoyed by Thai people wherever they are.
If there is no river around, then a pond will do. As with all Thai events the Loy Krathong is great fun, starting during the daytime in the bigger towns with parades, beauty pageants and the inevitable food stalls.
The evening brings the celebration of the little craft being sent off on the river journey, often seen with people kneeling at the river bank in prayer.
The Loi Krathong Festival is a celebration for all, and visitors will enjoy the friendship of those at the river.
Perhaps in Chiang Mai there is still more of a community atmosphere, but in the big hotels of Bangkok, particularly those on the riverside, there are some spectacular displays over the three day period.