Loy Kratong is Thai for “Float Lotus-Raft” and has been a Thai tradition for centuries. We celebrate it in the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar – usually falling sometime in November. The term Loi means ‘to float’ and “Krathong” means a lotus shaped vessel that is made of banana leaves. The Krathong is decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks and we can also put some coins in it. It’s The festival traces its origin to the Hindu festival of Dipawali which is celebrated in India. Originally, it was celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony to River Ganges, however, the Buddhists of Thailand adapted the festival to honour the Lord Buddha. The candle raft (Krathong) is floated on the top of any water body as a mark of respect to the Buddha. It’s important because when we push it out it carries with it all the sins, grievances and angst of the person floating it, thereby offering an opportunity to get rid of the old bullshit and begin a new life in a much better manner. Some cut their fingernails and hair and put it in the raft as a symbol of breaking away with all negative aspects of oneself. I bite my fingernails so it’s tough for me. Hair = no worries.
The floating of the raft is also a way to give respect and thanks to the Goddess of water, Phra Mae Khongkha. It is also supposed to bring good luck.
When I got to Thailand in 1987 it was one of the first Thai festivals I saw from the boat I was on. Anchored in Surin Beach it was amazing to sit and watch all night as thousands of people floated their Kratongs out into the ocean with candles. Beautiful sight. Big mess on the beach in the morning but the Thai’s now use Banana cross-sections to float rather than Polystyrene floats – for environmental reasons. Which is much better.
I love it because we can get rid of all our old ‘bad luck’ or relationships or resentments and start fresh again to live the way we ‘should’.
I learned about this From all my Thai friends when I started working in Thailand in 87.
I used to scoff at it a bit in the early days thinking ‘these guys are soft in the head’ to believe this nonsense but over the years life wears you down and you realize that there are so many things in this universe that remain unseen and unexplained and I can’t ever grasp them all – so why is this nonsense? Maybe it’s true – whatever it is – 60 million people believe in it – so there’s some sort of congregation of the entire nation’s universal subconscious mind on that night and maybe that’s what gives it so much power to the Thai’s themselves. They care not what anyone thinks – they believe it and all do it (almost religiously) – I mean it’s almost unheard of ‘not’ to float your own ‘kratong’ because you may bring bad luck to yourself this way. I remember one year I didn’t have one to float by late afternoon and everyone at work got into a fluff over it and tools were down until ‘the boss’ had his Kratong to float. All the hostesses got together and made me a huge one that was so exquisitely decorated and it was about a metre around.
Did you teach your kids the song about it?
Yes – because it’s one of the great Thai children’s songs and everyone sings it on Loy Kratong day and night and it’s a perfect song for young children to learn to be part of Thai culture.
Because they were all born in Thailand and although they’re not Thai by DNA they are Thai by upbringing and should know all about the culture of their birth.
I enjoy that the informant was able to learn and become personally connected with a piece of folklore that belonged to a culture and country that he integrated himself into as a young adult.