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Loy Krathong is not an official holiday but still the most popular Thai festival of light and water which is celebrated with exuberance, every year on the full moon of the 12th moon month (usually in November). In North Thailand Loy Krathong coincides with the Pi Yeng festival, known for the (khom loi) lantern festival (with the launching of paper lanterns/lampions/hot air balloons).

Origin

Historically the origin of Loy Krathong it is not clear. Possibly it is going back to an old Indian festivity because it is associated with the water goddess Phra Mae Khongkha whose name refers tot the Indian Ganges River. Other antique traditions (Haripunchai, Khmer etc.) perhaps had an influence.

The popular legend explains that in the Sukhothai period, Nang Nopamas, a consort of a Thai king, was the first to place a decorated small raft on the water to worship the water goddess. We speak of a legend because there exists no historical evidence and it is assumed that the story is an invention from the beginning of the 19th century.

Following a text of Rama IV the original custom was adapted for a Buddhist inspired celebration and commemoration of Buddhists events.

Tradition

Loy means float en krathong is a small raft which is placed on the water. The krathongs are made out of natural materials: bread, banana leaf and trunk, flowers etc. with candles and incense. Usually they are small but some big and impressive specimen are created by official instances and organizations. (In some places the use of styrofoam and similar materials which pollute the nature are forbidden by the law.)

The krathong is placed on het water and floats away with the ceremonial accompaniment of the Buddhist monks. Symbolically the vessel carries away all unpleasant aspects and negative feelings of the person and ensures his future happiness.

In the folk belief the water goddess is still worshipped and thanked for her benevolences. For couples the conduct of the krathong shows a sign for their relationship.

The name Nopamas lives on in the Nang Nopamas or Miss Krathong beauty-queen contests which are organized.
She is considered to be a symbol of goodness, beauty and intelligence, the perfect woman …

At the end of the rainy season the water is high in rivers and klongs. Since the 17th century competitions with “long" boats are organized on the main rivers. Some of the most famous take place in Ayutthaya, Phichit, Phitsanulok and Narathiwat. The temples are often the centres of the activities (see photo).

A lot of fun is made, with parades and firework and everywhere the Loy Krathong-song is heard which concludes with the message: (Buddhist) merit brings happiness!

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