Loy Krathong, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of Thailand’s most enchanting and widely celebrated festivals. Deeply rooted in Thai culture, this annual event is a mesmerising experience. Across the country, thousands of beautifully decorated floating baskets, known as krathongs, are floated on rivers, lakes, and canals.
Origins of Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong traces its roots back to the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom, which flourished in the 13th century. It is believed that the festival was initially celebrated to pay homage to the water goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha, and to express gratitude for the abundance of water resources. Over time, Loy Krathong has evolved into a celebration of letting go of negativity and starting anew.
Where to Celebrate Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong is celebrated nationwide, so wherever you are in Thailand you can join in the festivities.
Flowing through the heart of the city, the Chao Phraya River is the centre of Loy Krathong festivities in Bangkok. Popular spots for locals to float krathongs and watch the fireworks include Asiatique, the area near Wat Arun, and the Rama VIII Bridge. Head down to the riverside area to watch or take an evening boat trip to immerse yourself in the celebrations.
The northern city of Chiang Mai is regarded as one of the best locations in the country to celebrate Loy Karthong with the Ping River the focal point of the celebrations. Head to the Nawarat Bridge or the Iron Bridge to witness thousands of illuminated krathongs floating along the Ping River.
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival also coincides with Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, making it an even more magical experience. In ancient times Yi Peng was a separate festival celebrated throughout North Thailand, but has now been incorporated into the festivities for Loy Krathong.
Sukhothai is said to be the birthplace of Loy Krathong and is one of the best places to celebrate this romantic festival. The focal point is Sukhothai Historical Park where crowds gather to float krathongs and watch the fireworks and sky lanterns. Set against the backdrop of the illuminated ancient ruins, this is a truly memorable Loy Krathong experience.
Loy Krathong essentials
Wherever you go to celebrate Loy Krathong in Thailand, you will find krathongs for sale in various sizes. At some venues (including Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Sukhothai) it’s possible to make your own floating basket under expert guidance at pop-up workshops. Krathongs are traditionally made from the stem or trunk of a banana tree which is decorated with banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, and a candle. It’s also tradition to add a strand of your hair or a small clipping of your fingernail to add to the basket for good luck. A few coins can also be added.
Enjoy an eco-friendly Loy Krathong
The traditional way of making krathongs uses natural materials, but unfortunately some vendors do sell them with a polystyrene base. However, there is a growing trend for tourists and locals to make or buy or make traditional krathongs or ones that are environmentally friendly and use biodegradable materials.
Find a suitable location near a body of water, preferably a river or a lake. Light the candle and incense sticks on your krathong, make a wish, and release it onto the water. As your krathong drifts away, it symbolises letting go of negative thoughts and starting afresh.
While releasing your krathong is the highlight of Loy Krathong, there is much more to enjoy. Indulge in traditional Thai delicacies, witness cultural performances, and marvel at the beauty of illuminated decorations and fireworks. Immerse yourself in the joyous atmosphere and join the locals in celebrating this magical festival.
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