Loi’s Lights: Thailand’s Beautiful Loi Krathong Festival

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Letting laterns go during the Loi Krathong Festival.
Letting lanterns go during the Loi Krathong Festival.

Thailand’s Beautiful Loi Krathong Festival On the River of Kings

By Grace Ertel

November is a great month to visit Thailand. The rainy season has ended and the air is not as humid. I was lucky enough to arrive during the November full moon, the time of Loi Krathong, one of the country’s most beautiful festivals.

According to legend, a Thai Princess wished to thank the water spirits for their bounty and so began the tradition of making krathongs or leaf cups decorated with flowers and holding a candle. Loi means “to float” and after making a wish, the krathongs are lowered into a river or canal to float away.

Some believe the custom of floating lanterns was started about 700 years ago by the Thai kings in the North when Sukhothai was the capital.

girl lighting candle South East Asia festival
girl lighting candle South East Asia festival. photo by Kathleen Broadhurst

Others say the custom was not only a way to thank the Goddess Mae Khongkha, the Mother of Water but of asking her pardon for having polluted the water — a problem found almost everywhere in Thailand.

Still others claim the festival really has no religious basis, but is a matter of rejoicing for all people. By November, the heavy work of plowing and planting is over and the peasants have only to wait until harvesting. It’s a good time for celebrations.

It was a delightful evening on the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings) in Bangkok when I arrived. All the large hotels along the river prepare lavish feasts for the occasion and the people come dressed in their finest.

The Shangri-La Hotel’s patio trees sparkled with lights and the tables contained flower-decorated candle holders, while the swimming pool held larger, more ornate floating Krathong.

Intricate fruit carvings and ice sculptures adorn the pool deck, where a number of food booths offer tempting Thai and other oriental delicacies.

Across the city, lights and candles sparkle, while musicians and dancers entertain crowds along the riverbanks. Not a home is unlit.

Bangkok is certainly the most spectacular place to enjoy the Loi Krathong festival, but all around the country, festive parties are underway on the November full moon.

At the end of the evening, we join the crowds along the river. it is time to make a wish before launching our krathongs into the water to float away. As hundreds of thousands of krathongs fill the water, fireworks spray over the river into the wee hours. Dancing and music last all night.

And what happens to the krathongs after they have floated away? Small children sometimes swim out to catch them and retrieve the coins that are often left on the krathongs to placate the gods in reparation for our misdeeds.

Perhaps the lights of Thailand’s Loi Krathong Festival please more than the gods, after all.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

WHEN
This year, the Loi Krathong Festival in most places will be celebrated on November 10th and 11th.

WHERE
The Loi Krathong celebrations take place all over the country on the night of the full moon. Bangkok‘s celebration is the most spectacular, with fireworks and street parties, but even the smallest villages celebrate the full moon in a unique Thai style.

RESOURCES

For more information, call 1-800-Thailand or visit the website at

tourismthailand.org