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An important part of celebrating the Thai Lantern Festival, Loy Krathong, in Thailand is participating in the tradition of making your own Krathong, or floating lantern. While many Thai people buy their krathongs today, making your own is a great way to learn more about the festival and get involved in the celebrations.
We recommend making your krathong out of biodegradable materials so it doesn’t damage the environment when released. Traditionally, krathongs are made from banana leaves and part of a banana tree. You can also make a krathong from bread and other biodegradable materials.
A krathong is a floating raft that is made from banana tree leaves and is used as a way to release bad luck during the Loy Krathong Festival. Loy Krathong is celebrated every year in Thailand in November by the whole country preparing their krathongs and releasing them on waterways, lakes, and oceans.
Krathongs normally contain personal items to symbolize the bad luck that a person is trying to release. They also contain incense and a candle which are commonly used in Buddhist temples as a way to honor the Buddha.
Krathongs come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from many different materials. During Loy Krathong, there are often competitions to see who can make the largest and most intricate floating lanterns.
There is a great deal of superstition surrounding these banana leaf rafts during the holiday. Many Thais believe that if the krathongs of two lovers float away together, their love will last forever. Conversely, if the krathongs separate or one capsizes or sinks, it means bad luck in the relationship.
1. First, you want to cover your slice of banana tree with banana leaves. Cut out a long strip of a banana leaf then wrap it around the edge or your banana tree slice so that none of the wood is showing. Similarly, use a circular piece of banana leaf to cover the bottom of your slice of wood. You can attach the leaves to the wood using pins, tape, or toothpicks.
2. Now that your base is complete, you can start working on making it beautiful! Cut out many long strips of banana leaves. Take each strip and fold it into an interesting shape then pin it onto the base and top of your krathong. You can use traditional shapes like triangles and diamonds or test your creativity by creating flowers and other interesting designs. Most krathongs are meant to resemble the shape of a lotus flower, but it's okay to get a little outside of the box.
3. Continue pinning folded banana leaves to your krathong until it creates a complete ring and everything but the very center of the top is covered.
4. Once you have your banana leaf decorations looking the way you like, you can add the candle and incense sticks. Add the candle by placing and a toothpick into the bottom and then pinning it to the center of the krathong. You can directly pierce the incense sticks into the base. The candle and incense should both be standing straight up (if they lean it can cause your krathong to capsize).
5. Lastly, pin fresh flowers around the candle and incense sticks on top of your krathong to finish off the decorations. Flowers that are commonly used to decorate krathongs include lotus, roses, marigolds, and orchids.
Because these floating lanterns will be released into rivers, lakes, and waterways across Thailand, it is very important to choose eco-friendly materials to use in your krathong. Krathongs that are sold on the streets often include materials like metal, styrofoam, and plastic that aren’t degradable and cause havoc on the environment for months after the festival takes place.
To try and prevent this environmental damage, volunteers often head out to clean up the waterways the morning after Loy Krathong. However, they can’t collect all the debris so it's important to use biodegradable materials.
|Styrofoam base||Banana tree trunk base|
|Plastic decorations||Banana leaf decorations/ bread decorations|
|Metal pins||Wood pins/ toothpicks|
|Fake flowers||Fresh flowers|
Here are some of the materials you will need to create a traditional Thai Krathong.
Besides the sticks of incense and candles, the most common things to put inside a krathong are nail clippings, hair, and bits of old clothes. These items are used by Thai people to represent the past self and all the negative feelings from the last year. Adding these to a krathong symbolizes letting go of past actions and thoughts.
Coins can also be added to krathongs as a way of merit-making and wishing for good luck in future years.
You can also add other personal items to your krathong that represent something important to you. These items can represent things you'd like to let go of or things you want to gain in the future.
Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Thailand. Whether that includes experiencing Loy Krathong, Yi Peng, another festival, or just some time relaxing on the beach. Check out some of our example itineraries below for inspiration!