Loy Krathong takes place on the first full moon of the twelfth lunar month
(November), which in 2010 will be on the 21st November.
The time of the month ensures that the water is high and the time of the year ensures the evening is cool.
The tradition of Loy Krathong is ancient and is thought to be Brahman in origin and might have been a way of
appeasing the goddess of water for using and abusing (polluting) her.
The word for 'river' in Thai is 'mae naam' which means 'Water Mother'.
However, others say that the festival is uniquely Thai and that it probably originated in Thailand's first
capital city, Sukhothai, in northern Thailand. Many people agree that the best place to celebrate Loy Krathong is
still northern Thailand and that Chiang Mai and Sukhothai give the very best light displays in Thailand for this
In fact, there are local festivals all over northern Thailand. For example, Phichai, or Fort Phichai, in the
near-by Province of Uttaradit has a beautiful seven-day event to mark Loy Krathong.
The krathong or 'boats' are traditionally made from a disk cut from the trunk of a banana tree, so they are
about six-nine inches in diameter and are decorated with banana leaves, flowers, candles and joss sticks.
People often put some money (coins) in their krathong to increase their chances of having their wish granted
before pushing them out on the river or sea to float away.
These krathong are totally bio-degradable, but there has been a move to mass-produce krathong from polystyrene,
but this is strongly discouraged by environmentalists. The Bangkok river authorities removed over 1,000,000
krathong from the rivers and canals in 2006. But how many got through to the open sea?
People traditionally pushed their krathong out onto the water with a wish. It was hoped that the River Goddess,
Kongkha (or Ganga) would be appeased and would grant the wish. Sometimes, Loy Krathong is called 'The Festival of
Light' because of the hundreds of millions of candles that are lit on this evening and the flying lanterns of light
launched into the sky.
Nowadays, Loy Krathong is still associated with the granting of good luck, but it has more overtones of romance.
Lovers push their two krathongs out together and hope that they stay together as the current takes them. If they
stay together, it is taken as a sign that the couple will be happy together for the following year.
In some parts of Thailand, especially in the north, people launch small hot air balloons or lanterns into the
night sky. These hot air balloons are about two feet in diameter and made of white paper. Some are tubular instead
of round. The bottom is open and a candle or something like that is suspended below the opening.
It is a knack to light the candle and heat the air in the balloon enough to get it to take off. The light from
the heat source illuminates the white balloon and they rise quickly into the slip steam. You can see them travel
for miles. Some travel on high air currents and some on fast currents until the flame goes out and the balloon
Sometimes the balloon catches fire and falls to the ground from a great height in the most spectacular way. The
authorities have tried to ban these balloons from the Loy Krathong festival of light on the ground that they are
dangerous, but not many people take any notice and tradition wins out in the end.
by +Owen Jones