Friday, November 30, 2012

Festival Of The Floating Boats

On Wednesday, the very beautiful, romantic and spiritual holiday of Loi Krathong (also known as the Festival of Floating Boats) was celebrated throughout Thailand. Loi Krathong is celebrated each year on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. This year, that day was November 28th. Celebrations of Loi Krathong usually feature parades of vehicles that are elaborately decorated with flowers and greenery, beauty pageants and fireworks. Loi Kratong is very popular in Thailand and is one of the two most popular festivals in the country, the other being Songkran (the traditional Thai New Year which you can read about here). Songkran celebrates the beginning of the monsoon season and Loi Krathong celebrates the harvest season and the end of the rainy season.              
Loi (sometimes spelled "Loy") means ‘to float’ and 'Krathong' refers to a lotus blossom-shaped basket, small boat or container which is decorated and set afloat on a river, canal or pond. Traditionally, Krathong are made of the elaborately folded layers of banana leaves, banana tree trunks or the leaves of a spider lily plant. Krathong are decorated with flowers, candles, and incense. Coins or other small offerings may be included as a special offering to the water spirits. 

Some of the Krathongs are so beautiful and take your breath away! The source for each photo is posted underneath the photo. Unfortunately, I did not feel well the night of Loi Krathong and missed the celebration here in Nichada as well as any photo opportunities. These are far better than mine would ever be so it is not such a bad thing.
A vendor making Krathongs.
Vendors set up on sidewalks and along the streets to sell Krathongs.
As the Krathongs are launched in to the water and taken away by the current, a wish is made. The Thais believe that, as the Krathong floats away, the person's sins, grief, misfortune and anger are released and their soul is clear. If the candle on the Krathong stays lit until the Krathong disappears out of sight, it is said that a year of good luck and prosperity will follow. According to Thai legend, a young woman named Nang Nopamas made an offering of a Krathong in the name of the water goddess. She set the Krathong afloat in a canal so the current would carry it past King Ramkhamhaeng whom she deeply loved. Today, on Loi Krathong, couples in love make a wish and offer a Krathong with hopes of a never-ending love and a long-lasting life together. 
There were amazing displays of celebration all over Bangkok.
The Chao Phraya River was aglow with special decorations.
Loi Krathong dates back almost 700 years to the Sukhotai period and there are different legends explaining the origins of Loi Krathong. According to one legend, it is a celebration to express gratitude and respect to the goddess of water for providing an abundance of water to supply the rice growing season and support the livelihood of the Thai people. The celebration of Loi Krathong is especially enthusiastic in the Thai agricultural communities that have a strong bond with and a dependency on the river, particularly those villages and rice farmers along the Chao Phraya river. The farmers also use Loi Kathrong as a time to apologize and ask forgiveness for carelessly polluting or misusing the water in the rivers and canals.  

Loi Krathong is also thought to have originated from Buddhism. The Thais show reverence to Buddha on this holiday and may offer the flowers, candles and incense as a sign of respect to the footprint of the Lord Buddha on the beach of the Narmaha River in India. The offerings may also pay tribute to the great Serpent and dwellers of the underwater world. Since the growing season is over, the Thais ask the Serpent ruler to end the monsoon season, stop the flooding and quiet the rivers. Ironically, Loi Krathong was not widely celebrated in Thailand last year because of the horrible flooding that the country was experiencing. This year, however, it was celebrated and there were many photos of illuminated Krathongs floating in rivers, canals and ponds all over Bangkok. Nichada had a celebration at the community pool and, after setting the Krathongs afloat in the pool, there was fireworks display over the lake. 

Have a great Friday!

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