Thursday, November 10, 2011

Loy Krathong Festival

On the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, when the tide in the rivers is highest and the moon at its brightest, the Thai people hold the 'Loy Krathong' festival, the 'festival of light.' Loy Krathong is one of the two most recognized festivals in the country.
Loy Krathong is probably the most picturesque and beautiful of all Thai celebrations. 'Loy' means 'to float,' and 'krathong' refers to the thing that floats on the water. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. A krathong contains food, betel nuts, flowers, incense, candles and/or coins. Its shape represents the lotus flower. The Loy Krathong ritual is to light the candles and the incense, make wishes and let it float away with the current of a river or a canal.
Thais watch as the krathongs drift in the water, hoping that the candle will not go out. Its flame is said to signify longevity, fulfillment of wishes and release from sins. It is considered a romantic night for couples or lovers…sigh. Couples who make a wish together on Loy Krathong are thought to stay together in the future. Including coins insures a prosperous year ahead.
You actually can compare Loy Krathong to our Thanksgiving. It is a time to express gratitude and thanksgiving – different legends credit different origins, but the intent is the same, to give thanks and ask forgiveness, either to the goddess of water or to Buddha, or to ancestors. In Isaan, where I am, the origin is believed to be from Nang Noppamas, the King’s concubine in the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th century. She floated a krathong as an offering to the river and asking for forgiveness for using the water and for polluting it.
At my site, the festival took place at the lake. Each of the 8 villages made a float representing a large krathong. There was a musical show featuring children singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments and a beauty pageant with 8 contestants, one from each village. Being the expert that I am, I of course was a judge, a particular challenge for the speaking category. My criterion was all about poise and confidence and the advice of Mii, a fellow judge and friend! Small hot air balloons were released in the air and the krathongs were placed in the water. It was a beautiful evening. As the krathongs were released, we took a moment to offer a blessing and make a wish. Very loud fireworks occasionally punctuated the evening seemingly at random times. The new nayoke and ron nayoke (mayor and assistant mayor) couldn’t resist an audience and did a few karaoke numbers, surprising the balat (city manager) by inviting her on stage. The whole extravaganza lasted 5 hours!
The ron balat (assistant city manager) ended up shadowing me to make sure I was at the right place at the right time. At the beginning of the event, the dignitaries were ushered on stage and I was off watching the balloon launch. When these same dignitaries were launching their krathongs I was photographing the village krathongs and ended up launching mine late. They wanted to make sure I was in place to judge the pageant!

A week was spent at the lake setting up. Tuk ta is beating the heat with her sun shade.

Getting my corsage. We made them at the office. I was in charge of making the bows. I couldn't mess them up too much with that job!

Hot air balloons. They held them until they heated up and then released them.

The krathongs floating away. My candles blew out immediately, not a good sign!

The beauty contestants

More photos coming on facebook.

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