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Loy Krathong: A Festival Steeped In Thai Legend
Janet Martin
11/18/2005



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In mid-November every year, the rivers of Thailand come alive with picturesque lights on ornate floating boats made from banana-leaves, also known as ‘krathongs.’ This is the Loy Krathong festival, a nationwide celebration where the local people put the krathongs in the river to express their appreciation of the Goddess of Water. It is also believed that the krathongs can help carry away one’s misfortune.

There are a variety of activities to celebrate Loy Krathong, including parades, beauty contests, festooned vehicles and stilt performances. Although it is not a religious holiday, it is quite popular among all the Thais and people say it is one of the most beautiful festivals in Thailand.

Krathongs are fashioned out of banana-leaves, decorated with flowers and 3 sticks of incense and candles are placed in the center. The candle in the center is representative as a ‘light of hope’. Much care and time is taken into making them and come in an assortment of designs.

The exact history of the festival is not known. One of the most popular legends originated eight hundred years ago on a December night with a full moon. The king was traveling through the river on a dragon ship with his queen and the imperial concubines. The people were celebrating with fireworks in the city. One concubine decided to fold a lotus-shape lamp using a banana-leaf and inserted flowers and a candle in it. She then placed it on the river and let it float away with the waves as a way of expressing her thanks to Buddha and the Goddess of Water. The king was so pleased that he ordered this time of year to become a water lamp festival, and told people to create ‘krathongs’ just like the imperial concubine.

Today, one can find lotus flowers and candles in the streets and temples everywhere during Loy Krathong festival. At night, thousands of candles light up the river, drifting away on the water. It is also a favorite time of year for couples to celebrate their relationships, lighting their krathongs together. Myth has it that if the krathongs continue to float away together, the couple will be united forever. The legendary romance of the festival continues to attract a lot of visitors.

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