What is Loi Krathong?
One of the nice things about living in another country is having twice the holidays and learning about the culture of your new adopted home. For us American expats in Thailand, November brings us not only Thanksgiving Day, but also Loi Krathong, one of the most important holidays in Thai culture.
Loi Krathong is the Thai Festival of Lights. It takes place on the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (almost always November), and next to Songkran Day is one of Thailand's most important holidays. It is a day to pay respect and show honor to the spirit of the river, which is the lifeblood of Thailand.
It's traditionally a reverent night of reflection, when Thais will float their prayers and good wishes off into the river with a krathong.
What is a Krathong?
"Loi" is a verb in Thai which means "to float". A "Krathong" is a "basket". More specifically, it is a float traditionally made out of banana leaves in which incense and candles are placed and send off down the river.
Modern krathongs can be made out of banana leaves, but can also be made out of plastic, which kind of defeats the traditional environmentalist aspect of the holiday, in paying respect to the river.
Some modern krathongs are also made out of bread. This is a nice idea, as the bread will break apart to feed the fish and birds.
What do you do on Loi Krathong?
Why, you loi a krathong, of course! Or rather, you float a float. You know what I mean. On Loi Krathong night, people from all over Thailand gather at the water to light a candle and a stick of incense, say a prayer, and float their krathongs off into the river. Loi Krathong is a day of remembrance in which people should give thanks to the river for nurturing the land. It is a very important day of thanks.
It's also a lot of fun!
In Bangkok you can expect to see parades of barges covered in colorful lights cruising up and down the Chao Phraya as well as firework over the water.
You can find a Loi Krathong celebration pretty much anywhere in Thailand, although the festivities will differ by region. The Bangkokians and Central Thais like to float candles in the river, while the northern Thais up in Chiang Mai send candles up to the heavens in floating lanterns. Wherever you go, Loi Krathong is sure to be a beautiful and reverent holiday.
Where can you celebrate Loi Krathong?
In Bangkok, the biggest celebration is the annual four-night River Festival, which is organized by the Ministry of Tourism. The River Festival has events at seven different waterfront temples, with free ferry service to shuttle people to and from the piers. Each temple hosts a different event or celebration. Pick up a free stamp book and visit all of them!
Asiatique riverfront shopping arcade in Bangkok also hosts a fun and exciting Loi Krathong celebration, but you can expect heavy crowds.
Attend the festivities a day early to beat the crowds.