Tonight the people of Thailand will be celebrating the Loy kratong festival; probably the most beautiful of all Thai festivals. We moved house a few months ago so this year we are not sure about where we are going to celebrate it. Hopefully though we will have better luck than last year when we had to turn back because my son was ill and my small dog was terrified of the bangers.
It is believed that the original purpose behind Loy Kratong was to thank the river god for looking after everyone. For many people in Thailand it is a chance to remember how important water is to their lives, and an opportunity to have a bit of fun at the end of the rainy season. Although Thailand is predominately a Buddhist country this festival is believed to have Hindu origins, but it was later adapted to fit in with local beliefs.
Loy is the Thai word for float and Kratong is a type of raft that traditionally made from a cross section of the bamboo tree. In the past almost everyone made their own Kratongs, but there has a rapid rise in the number of people buying kratong made from Styrofoam. These Styrofoam versions can create a lot of problems in the days after the festival and don’t seem like the most appropriate way to thank the river. That is why the Thai government is encouraging everyone to use Kratongs made from bread; at least that way the fish will get a good meal. My wife is a bit of a traditionalist and she spent most of yesterday making Kratongs with my son.
As soon as it gets dark tomorrow night we will go to a nearby river; my wife is threatening to put my son in Thai traditional dress (see picture above for what I mean). We will have our Kratong and on top of it will be three incense sticks and a candle. My wife will stick a coin into it and then we will go right beside the edge of the river making sure that we are all touching the kratong. We will then make our wishes before we launch our little boat on the water. It will join hundreds of other little kratongs moving slowly along the river, and join in with the millions of them all around the country. These little candle lit rafts are the most beautiful sight imaginable; they can even bring a tear to the most hardened cynic. My wife will try and get my son to sing the ‘loy, loy kratong’ song and then that will be it.
Happy Loy Kratong
Incidentally there is an interesting English version of the Loy Kratong song to be found here