Well, you little devil, if you’re planning to vacation in Thailand at the end of November, you’re in luck literally and figuratively. Not only will you get to witness Loi Krathong, one of the most picturesque festivals of the year, but you can also join in and float away your anger, grudges and defilements of the past year.
Held every year on the evening of the full moon of the 12th lunar month, the festival is held to honor the original Buddha and pays tribute to the goddess of water at the end of the rainy season.
Loi means “to float” and a krathong is a lotus-shaped floating vessel. It is highly decorated, adorned with candles, burning incense, flowers, coins and sometimes fingernails or hair. It is said that floating a krathong will bring you good luck, especially if the candle stays alight until it has floated into the distance. And some believe that by including your hair or nails, you can let go of the bad parts of yourself and start the new lunar year afresh without any negative feelings.
I generally head down to the Chao Phraya River at the Saphan Thaksin Bridge in Bangkok. Despite the throngs of people, a calm and cheerful atmosphere pervaded. Many vendors of krathongs lined the river, allowing me to pick up a large and well-decorated craft, hoping to secure some good luck for the year ahead (and OK, I admit it, I had also been a particularly bad boy the previous 12 months).
We launched our glowing rafts – mine complete with hair, fingernails and a toenail for good measure – and our burdens lifted and disappeared down the river on a flickering, faery-like waterway.
Feeling decidedly better about my past and future, I settled in with my friends to watch the amazing fireworks display along the river, part of each year’s celebrations. This is truly one of the most magical festivals of the year. Flickering lights on a vast river, crowned with exploding colors in the air. All your senses are stimulated.
You can experience Loi Krathong almost anywhere in Thailand – even if you’re confined to a hotel, they’ll most likely launch krathongs into the swimming pool or pond. But the end-all location for the festival is Chiang Mai, where the Loi Krathong festival coincides with the Northern Thailand Yi Peng Festival. Residents of Chiang Mai decorate their homes in lights and release thousands of paper lanterns into the sky above the krathongs on the river. Pure magic.
Good luck and be good … do the right thing for the environment! Make sure your krathong is made from organic and biodegradable matter, such as banana leaves and palm wood, and avoid the plastic and synthetic decorations. The organic decorations are magnificent and intricate, much more so than the tacky pink and green plastic options!