Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Loy Krathong Day - Thailand

Last night was the full moon here in Thailand and also Loy Krathong Day.

We didn't think we would be able to join in the traditional celebration of the Loy Krathong Festival this year due to schedules, but the need to buy a new polo shirt brought us to an area close to home that had a klong or small waterway, where people were celebrating.

We bought a large "Krathong" for 60 baht. A krathong is a lotus shaped vessel made from banana leaves, flowers, a candle and three sticks of incense. People often put coins on the krathong as well as an offering. People will also add locks of thier hair or fingernail clippings to the krathong to symbolize letting go of bad characteristics of themselves. Floating ("Loy" is the verb meaning "to float") the krathong in itself is in part honoring Buddha with the lit candles, letting go of grudges, bad feelings, and bad things that you have done throughout the year, and also honoring the Goddess of Water. You can see many krathongs floating in the pond behind us. This is right before we "Loyed" (Thainglish) or floated our krathong a couple years ago.These days, environmentally friendly celebrants also send krathongs downriver made of baked dough, something for the fish to eat. Although, some of the waterways here in Bangkok certainly don't support any type of life!

The krathongs are often intercepted by kids in swimming in the water before they can float too far...makes people kinda upset. The kids grab the just launched krathong and rip it apart looking for coins. It makes for some pretty dirty looks from sweet couples who are floating their first krathong together...5 seconds and theirs is upside down in the water.If the krathongs somehow make it past any coin gatherers, they eventually flow to either one side of the pond, lake or stream where eventually the incense burns out and the candles melt down to nothing. There is usually a government led cleanup effort the following morning.

In the northern provinces, Loy Krathong is celebrated by sending lanterns floating up into the heavens. These lanterns are called Khom Fai or just Khom. Not sure how legal it is to send them up here in Bangkok, but we do anyway whenever we can get our hands on them. I've only participated in lighting and sending up the Khom once but I'd love to go to Chiang Mai one of these years and join in. I'm not sure about the symbolism of the lanterns, I'm not too familiar, but I'm sure people don't send up coins with the khom! That would be pretty dangerous, money falling from the sky. This is a picture of Pae and our friend P'Jack lighting a couple Khom lanterns two years ago, the last time we went as a group and the only time we've done the Khom as well!I saw about 10-15 of them heading skyward last night off in the distance. But places like Chiang Mai are a totally different story. They old a festival and people send thousands of these lanterns up into the sky at the same time. It's pretty amazing!I took a few quick pictures last night as we sent our krathong on its merry way, but I don't have those with me right now, so these are pictures from previous Loy Krathong Days. The festival is definitely "google-worthy" if you find yourself bored or interested in other cultures. FYI, where we floated our krathong last night, there were no kids or adults in the water taking the money offerings from the krathongs. It was very peaceful on our side of the klong with families and couples saying small prayers together, lighting candles and incense, and quietly participating in the yearly Loy Krathong Day activities.

I'm really happy that we were able to find a half hour to participate as well. I'm starting to feel like a veteran of the Thai holidays! Next up...Songkran!


Titan and I said...

That looks awesome and would be something to experience. I like the idea of letting go of the bad. I need to float a krathong.

Beccarigg said...

What a cool festival. The lantern picture is amazing. That would be a sight to see! I always love reading about your neat cultural experiences, this is one I would definitely join in!

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