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Loy Krathong Festival: Date, Meaning, Traditions

By CindyUpdated Jun. 7, 2024

Loy Krathong or Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง), known as Thailand's Festival of Lights, is one of the biggest festivals in Thailand. In 2024, it will take place on November 16th.

Loy Krathong Festival is an annual traditional Siamese festival celebrated by Thais to pay respect to the Goddess of Water and the Buddha.

It is not a public holiday but is celebrated nationwide when people gather around lakes, rivers, and canals to release floating lanterns or Krathongs on waterways.

Find out everything you need to know about Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand including when it will take place this year, why people celebrate Loy Krathong, and how to celebrate it.

When is the Loy Krathong Festival celebrated?

Loy Krathong Festival is celebrated on the evening of the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar. It usually falls in November, according to the Western calendar. Therefore, the Loy Kratong date is not fixed. It changes every year depending on the full moon.

In 2024, it will take place on the evening of 16th November. Find out how the Loy Krathong date is determined and how long the Loy Krathong festival lasts.

releasing a krathong on loi krathong festivalrReleasing a krathong.

What is the meaning of 'Loy Krathong'?

The word 'Loy (ลอย)' means 'to float'.

'Krathong' translates to 'basket or boat'.

So the meaning of 'Loy Krathong' is 'to float a basket'.

As its name implies, on the evening of the festival, Thai people gather around rivers, lakes, and canals to release baskets. This act symbolizes letting go of negative emotions and paying respect to the water spirits.

loy krathong festivalTo float a krathong

What is a Krathong?

A krathong is a small, decorative float made primarily from banana leaves, traditionally resembling a lotus flower or a small boat. The krathong is typically adorned with flowers, candles, incense sticks, and sometimes coins or small offerings.

The floating krathongs carry the hopes, wishes, and gratitude of individuals as they navigate along rivers, lakes, or canals during the festival.

See more information about Krathong, including how to make a krathong.

Making a krathong during loy krathong festivalMaking a krathong
sukhothai loy krathong 2023A krathong with more decorations

What is Loy Krathong celebrated for and What is its origin?

Loy Krathong originated in the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom around 800 years ago.

The festival combined Hindu and Buddhist customs and is celebrated to pay respect to and thank the Goddess of Water (called Pra Mae Khongkha) for a year's worth of her abundant supply and ask for an apology for polluting the waters, and pay respect to the Buddha.

Nowadays, it is also a way to get rid of negativity gathered during the previous year and welcome good fortune in the coming year.

It is also believed that the festival's roots are associated with Nang Noppamas, a revered concubine of the Sukhothai King. Nang Noppamas designed a lotus-shaped float adorned with miniature bird figures, which became the inspiration for the krathong. This legend also led to the tradition of beauty pageants where participants dress as Nang Noppamas.

Learn more about the origin of the Loy Krathong Festival.

chiang mai loy krathong

How is Loy Krathong celebrated in Thailand?

Loy Krathong is a vibrant and significant festival celebrated in Thailand. Here's how people typically celebrate this festival:

1. Krathong Making: Traditionally Thai people will begin the festival by making their Krathongs at home with friends and family, although many do also buy them from local shops.

2. Floating Krathongs: At dusk, people gather near water bodies with their decorated krathongs. They light the candles and incense before gently releasing the krathongs onto the water, symbolizing the release of negativity and honoring the water spirits. Thai folklore suggests that if the krathong remains lit until it disappears out of sight, it will bring good luck for the following year.

3. Cultural Performances and Beauty Pageant: During Loy Krathong, visitors can enjoy folklore performances, lantern parades, firework displays, and Thai classical music concerts. There will often be a beauty pageant, where women will dress up in traditional Thai clothing.

4. Lantern Release: In some regions of Thailand, like Chiang Mai, an additional tradition involves releasing floating lanterns called "khom loi" into the sky. These lanterns symbolize the release of worries and the pursuit of a brighter future.

5. Food and Entertainment: Loy Krathong is also an occasion for feasting. People often indulge in delicious street food, including local delicacies and traditional Thai dishes.

sukhothai loy krathong 2023The show during the Loy Krathong

Where is the best place to celebrate Loy Krathong Festival?

Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand and nearby countries such as Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.

Of all the celebrations of the Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand, certain cities hold celebrations on a much larger scale. The best places to go to experience the Loy Krathong Festival are Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Bangkok, and Phuket.

1. Chiang Mai: Two Festivals in One

chiang mai loy krathongChiang Mai CAD Yi Peng Festival

Chiang Mai is the second-largest city in northern Thailand and is also the best place to go for a Loy Krathong Festival experience. Besides having Loy Krathong celebrations, the city also holds another magnificent festival called Yi Peng Festival (Thailand Sky Lantern Festival) on the same day.

In 2024, Loy Krathong and Yee Peng will take place over the dates of 15th - 16th November.

With the floating lanterns of Loy Krathong on the river and the flying lanterns of Yi Peng dotting the night sky, Chiang Mai becomes a breathtaking scene that looks like something out of a fairytale. Witnessing these two festivals is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you don't want to miss.

Asia Highlights is the official partner of Chiang Mai CAD. We're glad to help you book a ticket for a mass lantern release.

2. Sukhothai: the Birthplace of Loy Krathong

sukhothai loy krathongLoy Krathong in Sukhothai

Sukhothai is the birthplace of the Loy Krathong Festival and is one of the best places to experience this joyful festival. The festival in Sukhothai is celebrated for five days. Most festival events are held in the Sukhothai Historical Park.

In addition to the floating lanterns, in Sukhothai, you can experience a beauty contest, parades, folk music performances, and the gorgeous Sukhothai light and sound show. See more information about Loy Krathong in Sukhothai.

3. Bangkok: Events Alongside Chao Phraya River

Loy Krathong celebration

If you only have time to visit Bangkok during the festival, don't feel too bad for not being able to go to Chiang Mai or Sukhothai. Bangkok celebrates Loy Krathong with its own style and activities.

During the festival, many events will take place on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Taking a cruise on the river is a romantic way to enjoy the festival.

The Asiatique shopping center is a good place to experience Loy Krathong events in Bangkok. Here, there are many bars and well-decorated stalls that illuminate the street and the river areas.

You can also visit the famous temples of Wat Arun, Wat Saket, Wat Pariwat, or Wat Yannawa to release Krathongs into the Chao Phraya River.

Learn more about the best places to go for Loy Krathong in Bangkok.

4. Phuket: Combine Loy Krathong with Beach Relaxation

Loy krathong in Phuket

Phuket is a great place to go for travelers who want to experience the beauty of Loy Krathong while avoiding the typical festival crowd. In Phuket, Loy Krathong is a much more laid-back event and most hotels and resorts offer classes on making your own Krathong and help you release it out to sea.

The festival is celebrated on all waterways and beaches including Patong Beach and Nai Harn Beach. If you are looking for a more local experience, you can head to Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Saphan Hin Park, or Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town. This is where most of the local Thai people gather to release their krathongs and celebrate.

Learn more about how to celebrate Loy Krathong in Phuket.

What is the difference between the Loy Krathong and the Yi Peng Festival?

The Yi Peng Festival and Loy Krathong are both celebrated in Thailand, particularly in the northern region, but they are distinct events with different customs and meanings.

Yi Peng Festival vs.Loy Krathong Festival

The Yi Peng Lantern Festival (or Yee Peng):

  • Yi Peng is predominantly celebrated in the northern region of Thailand, particularly in Chiang Mai.
  • It is characterized by the release of khom loy, or sky lanterns, into the night sky. These lanterns symbolize good luck, prosperity, and the release of worries and negative energy.
  • Yi Peng is deeply rooted in Lanna culture and traditions, dating back to the ancient Lanna Kingdom.
  • The festival has strong Buddhist connections, with lantern releases serving as a way to pay homage to Lord Buddha and seek enlightenment.
chiang mai loy krathongRelease Sky Lanterns in Yi Peng Festival

Loy Krathong Festival:

  • Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout Thailand at a similar time of year to Yi Peng, with significant festivities in various regions, including Bangkok and Sukhothai.
  • The highlight of Loy Krathong is the floating of krathongs, which are small lotus-shaped vessels made from banana leaves, flowers, and other natural materials, onto rivers, canals, and lakes.
  • Krathongs are floated as offerings to the water goddess, Mae Khongkha, to express gratitude, ask for forgiveness, and symbolically release negative emotions.
  • While Loy Krathong also has Buddhist roots, it incorporates animistic beliefs and customs related to water worship.
Release Water Lanterns in Loy Krathong FestivalRelease Water Lanterns in Loy Krathong Festival

Experience Loy Krathong Festival with Asia Highlights

If you would like to experience the Loy Krathong Festival, please feel free to contact us at Asia Highlights. From the moment you arrive, we will have everything prepared for you including your transportation, hotels, meals, and festival ceremony entrance tickets. We can customize your festival experience to suit your pace, taste, and schedule.

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