On the full moon night of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, Thais celebrate one of the most beautiful festivals known as Loy Kratong. It usually falls in the month of November when the tide is at its highest in the whole year.
Loy means to float and Kratong means lantern or little vessel made in resemblance of a lotus flower. Loy Kratong is the festival where people float candle-lit lanterns in the water - mainly in rivers, canals, ponds and the sea on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month.
In the past, lanterns were usually made of a piece of sliced banana-tree trunk, which floats on the water. It was then decorated to resemble a lotus flower. Intricately folded banana leaves, in the shape of lotus petals, would be gathered around the circular edge to form the shape of an open lotus flower.
Then a candle, 3 incense sticks and beautiful flowers would be put inside the lantern. Today you can find lanterns made from styrofoam, baked flour and other materials. Among various types of lanterns, the baked flour kind has become quite popular because it also feeds the fish in the river.
The Purpose of Loy Kratong
There are several reasons to float lanterns during the Loy Kratong festival, but the most common ones are:
1. To thank the Goddess of water Phra Mae Khongkha for letting us use water in our daily lives and to apologize to her for polluting it when showering and washing, etc.
2. To pay respect to the Buddha footprints on Nammatanati river bank in India.
3. To symbolically let go of unhappiness and sickness we put a coin, fingernail or a strand of hair in the lantern with the candle, incense sticks and the decorated flowers. Then, we let the lantern float away...
By showing respect to the Goddess of Water, we stop for a moment to think of the benefits we receive from it. At the same time, we can reflect whether we ever waste or pollute water and learn to use it more wisely.