Loi Krathong 2014, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Candle Lighting and Performance
Loi Krathong is a festival celebrated annually throughout Thailand, as well as certain parts of Malaysia, Laos and Burma. Occurring on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, in the Western calendar this usually falls in November. Every city and community celebrates differently, but many Thai people regard Chiang Mai as the best place to celebrate this holiday. Thousands of people come from all over the country to celebrate, send floating baskets (krathongs) down the river, let off fireworks, and ignite a nearly endless numbers of sky lanterns (khom loi).
The name Loi Krathong could be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river. These baskets are traditionally decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so.
According to H.M. King Rama IV, writing in 1863, Loi Krathong originates as a Brahmanical festival that was adapted by Thai Buddhists in Thailand to honor Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama. The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometime cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts. Many ordinary Thai use the krathong to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.
These pictures were taken at the opening ceremony to the Loi Krathong 2014 proceedings in Chiang Mai. Sixty candle bearers performed at alongside local musicians playing traditional Thai music at Three Kings Monument inside Chiang Mai’s old city. The synchronized, hypnotic performance was both beautiful and mesmerizing.
If it had to be compared to any American holiday, it’s almost as if Loi Krathong is Thailand’s 4th Of July / Independence Day. Except Independence Day is just one day, and usually just a lot of BBQ’ing followed by a fireworks performance. Whereas Loi Krathong is 4 days of awesomeness. Time to step up your game, America! Thailand’s definitely got you beat 😉
All in all, between the beautiful performances, the celebrations and the captivating sky lanterns, Loi Krathong truly is a holiday to be experienced! Definitely qualifies as bucket list material, as well as my official favorite holiday 🙂