Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is a festival in Thailand that honors the Buddha. Other nearby countries with Thai populations will also celebrate the festival. In some countries it may have a different name. The name ‘Loy Krathong’ in Thai can be translated to mean ‘to float a basket’. Loy means ‘to float’, while Krathong is the ‘basket’. This refers to the practice of creating a krathong and then floating it out on a river, lake, or other body of water.
Leaf material forms the basket of a traditional krathong. The Thai then decorate this basket with colorful flowers. They use three incense sticks and a candle in the krathong as an offering. Incense and candles are very common for Thai Buddhist offerings. Read Offerings in Thai Buddhism. A Thai person may also place an offering of coin or food inside the krathong. The good thing about the traditional krathong is that it is made of natural materials and, thus, is biodegradable. People may make some krathongs out of bread which will then eaten by fish. Due to environmental issues, the government is now banning more modern krathongs made of Styrofoam.
Thailand celebrates the festival on the 12th full moon of the year. At this time, Thai people release their krathongs at a river, lake, or canal. Symbolically, the Thai are releasing any bad luck, anger, or negativity from the previous year. Loy Krathong also coincides with the end of the rainy season. Thus, the goddess of water, Phra Mae Khongka (พระแม่คงคา), is thanked. The people then ask of her for good fortune, happiness, and positivity in the coming year. It is also popular for couples to pray and ask for continued strength in their love for one another.
In 2018, Loy Krathong takes place on Thursday night, November 22. The actual full moon takes place after midnight which makes it November 23 in the Western system of time. This can lead to some confusion if looking for information about Loy Krathong online. If you are looking to visit Thailand for the festival, you will definitely want to make sure you are there on Thursday night, November 22. If you show up on Friday night, November 23, you will have missed the events.
I suggest for those in Bangkok to visit Bangkok.com if you are in the city for Loy Krathong. This website lists the popular river, lake, and hotel locations for the night’s events. If in Chiang Mai, one can also view the Lanna festival of Yi Peng. This festival, although often mistaken for Loy Krathong, is popular among foreigners for the floating lanterns. The confusion stems from the fact that the date of Yi Peng coincides with that of Loy Krathong. People celebrate Loy Krathong all throughout Thailand so be sure to check local sources for detailed event information if visiting other parts of the country.