Loy Kratong Festival
Loi Krathong is held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.
“Loi” means “to float” and a “Krathong” is a raft, about a hand span in diameter, traditionally made from a section of banana tree trunk. A raft has been developed to be made of bread or sometimes made of styrofoam. The reason for using bread is to protect the environment,since having many rafts in the river can create a huge water pollution problem. Bread will eventually become food for fish and other animals in the river. Even though banana leaves are biodegradable, it takes longer to be degraded than a bread. Therefore, bread is the most environmental friendly choice to make a raft whereas foam is not recommended at all. A raft is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, incense sticks etc..
During the night of the full moon, many people will float a small rafts (Krathong) on a river or other body of water, such as canals, lakes and seas. Some people even float a raft in a basin in their own yard. Thai people believe that floating a raft on the river is to honor and pay respect to the goddess of water. Also, floating a raft in the river is to apologize to the Goddess of the Water for the bad things we have done to the river during the past year. That is why Loi Krathong festival is held at the end of the year. Governmental offices, corporations and other organizations usually create big decorated rafts. There are also local and officially organised raft competitions, regarding its beauty and craftsmanship. In addition, there are also fireworks and beauty contests during the celebration of the festival.
The origins of Loi Krathong are stated to be in Sukhothai, but recently scholars have argued that it is in fact an invention from the Bangkok period. According to the writings of H.M. King Rama IV in 1863, the originally Brahmanical festival was adapted by Buddhists in Thailand as a ceremony to honour the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama. Apart from venerating the Buddha with light (the candle on the raft), the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one’s grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot. People will also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a raft will bring good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha (Thai: พระแม่คงคา).
The beauty contests that accompany the festival are known as “Noppamas Queen Contests”. According to legend, Noppamas was a consort of the Sukothai king Loethai (14th century) and she was the first to float a decorated raft.
Kelantan in Malaysia also celebrates the same celebration, especially in the Tumpat area. The ministry in charge of tourism in Malaysia recognises it as an attraction for tourists. Many people visit the celebration each year.
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