Saturday, November 24, 2007

Loy Krathong

via Baan Jochim Phuket by Mark Jochim on 11/23/07

dsc01534 (medium)Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is considered to be one of the most beautiful and popular festivals in Thailand, taking place on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. This year, that translates to this Saturday — 24 November. This time of year (usually) has fine weather as the rainy season has ended and there are high water levels throughout the country.

The floating of a krathong — a small boat made usually of banana leaf and containing a flower, a candle, and three lighted incense sticks — is intended to float away ill fortune as well as to express apologies to Khongkha or Ganga, the River Goddess. Government offices and large companies build much bigger and more elaborate boats which are then judged in contests.

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Also during Loy Krathong, numerous beauty pageants are held to honor Noppomas, who was a consort of the Sukothai king Loethai in the 14th century. According to legend, she was the first to float decorated krathongs. The festival itself is Brahmin in origin. In 1863, HRH King Mongkut (Rama IV) wrote an interesting account about the first Loy Krathong Festival.

When floating a krathong, people make a wish as they set it in the water. It is believed that if the candle remains burning until the krathong is out of sight then their wish will come true. By the end of the evening, there are hundreds of flickering lights bobbing up and down on the numerous waterways of Thailand.

This Friday, our school will hold it's Loy Krathong activity. Teachers, as well as the students, are to dress in simple Thai costumes and everyone will spend the afternoon making their own krathongs using natural, environmentally-friendly materials (no styrofoam allowed). After a competition to judge the most beautiful krathongs, we will proceed to the paddling pool in order to float the boats. It promises to be a most colorful day! I plan to make an extra krathong to float on Saturday evening.

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Last year was my first experience with this particular Thai holiday and I had a wonderful time, despite heavy downpours most of the actual Krathong Day evening. My wife had purchased several cases of beer to sell on the beach in Patong, along with a number of krathongs donated by various friends. It was so rainy that there was a severe lack of customers; she and her friends ended up drinking most of the beer themselves. There was a fair on Bangla Road (including Miss Bar Girl and Lady Boy contests in addition to the Noppamas Queen pageants) .

But the best event we attended was a three-night Loy Krathong Festival at the lake in the northern part of Karon. We went two of the three nights and literally danced until dawn (they had one of those 20-baht-per-dance stage setups). Our "second daughter" Nadia was still staying with us; she and I floated a krathong together but the candle was so waterlogged that we couldn't get it lit at all (so, I suppose that would explain any bad luck we've had over the past year). There were fireworks off-and-on each night and we also lit and sent up one of those paper lanterns the Thais insist are hot-air balloons (coming from Albuquerque — the ballooning capital of the world — I beg to differ). Another good friend, Opat, was also there to dance with us. It will be different this year with our son and Tim's brother (Nadia is currently in Hollywood and I believe Opat is in Krabi now) but I'm sure we'll have a great time.

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