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“Loi Krathong” is traditionally performed on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, which usually falls on some day in November. The floating of a ‘Krathong’ – a banana–leaf cup – is intended to float away ill fortune as well as to express apologies to Khongkha or Ganga, the River Goddess. Some believe that the ritual is meant to worship the Buddha’s footprint on the bank of the Narmada River, while others say that it is to pay respect to Phra Uppakhut, one of the Lord Buddha’s great disciples.
The Loi Krathong Festival is celebrated nationwide in Thailand, especially where there are rivers, canals or sources of water, with different unique characteristics.
This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has joint with Educational Institution and Thai Baot Association to present the Electric Float Procession from Taksin Bridge to Rama VIII Bridge and the 12 lighten up buildings and historical sites along Chao Praya River during Loi Krathong Festival.
As for the public, people usually make banana-leaf cups to float them onto the river although there exist some uniquely different aspects in certain communities. For example, the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, during which balloon-like ‘Khom Loi’ lanterns including the ‘Khom Fai’ – a fire lantern – and ‘Khom Khwan’ – a smoke lantern – are flown into the sky as a symbol of worship to Phrathat Chulamani in heaven. Making a Khom Loi will need a lot of artistic skills as well as scientific techniques, just like the ones used in making a balloon. Tracing paper or Sa paper is used to make air bags of various shapes. It is believed that flying a Khom Loi is like flying grief and ill fortune away from ourselves or our home.
In Tak province, the Loi Krathong Sai Festival is celebrated, which reflects the unity of the local people. Groups of people gather at the river banks, each bringing along thousands of Krathong made from coconut shells with dried wicks made from coconut flesh anointed with oil or ash for their inflammable as well as durable quality. There, they sing and dance with merriment.
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The span of the Ping River that passes by the provincial city of Tak is not deeper than one’s waist, with underwater sand bars curving into different shapes, forcing the current to meander. When the lit Krathongs are floated onto the right current, one after another, they would meander along and make a beautiful and twinkling curving line, or Sai in Thai, amid the darkness of the night.
The famous Loi Krathong and Candle Festival in Sukhothai province features a procession of offerings, including Phanom Mak – the betel offering – and Phanom Dok Mai – the floral offering – carried by beautiful girls, as well as banana-leaf floats accompanied by the so-called Nang Nopphamat beauty queens.
The Phanom Mak and Phanom Dok Mai offerings are for the homage paying rite at King Ramkhamhaeng the Great’s monument in the heart of the ancient city of Sukhothai. After that, people as well as visitors gather and float the Krathongs together on ponds, known as Traphang, inside the ancient city. The bright candle light from the floated Krathongs and the cool breeze of November together lends a pleasant atmosphere for all participants.
Besides the well-known Loi Krathong Festival, there is another tradition that is based on a similar belief but is celebrated on the full moon night of the eleventh lunar month. Known as the Illuminated Boat Procession, the celebration takes place in the Northeastern provinces of Thailand that is located on the Mekong River. Illuminated boats of approximately 10 – 12 metres long are made from banana stalks or bamboo by villagers. The boats contain sweets, the so-called Khao Tom Mat – stuffed fried sticky rice – and objects to be donated inside, while decorated with flowers, incense sticks, candles, lamps and tinder outside. At present, the boats are created into various shapes such as important places or mythical creatures, which lend a bright and breathtaking sight when the boats illuminated by thousands of lamps are floated onto the river.