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Thailand's Loy Krathong Festival is often called the Thai Lantern Festival because it involves releasing floating lanterns or Krathongs on waterways throughout the country. This is one of the most popular festivals for travelers to experience in Thailand because of its spiritual significance and romantic beauty.
Krathongs are traditionally made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense sticks, and a candle. On the night of the full moon in November, these floating rafts are released onto waterways as a way to get rid of negativity gathered during the previous year.
Find out everything you need to know about Loy Krathong in Thailand including when it will take place this year, why it is called Loy Krathong, why people celebrate it, and how to celebrate it as a traveler.
Loy Krathong Festival, also called ‘the festival of light’, is an annual traditional festival in Thailand that is celebrated on the evening of the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar. Usually, the festival falls in early to mid-November.
In 2020, it will take place on the night of October 31st.
Find out the dates of future Loy Krathong celebrations.
In Thai, Loy means “to float” and a Krathong is a small lotus-shaped boat made from banana tree leaves. So Loy Krathong means a celebration where you “float a banana leaf raft”.
In the center of the Krathong, there are traditionally 3 sticks of incense and a lit candle. The boat also is often decorated with flowers and coins.
During the festival, people carry their Krathong to rivers and canals, light the candles and incense, and then make a wish before setting the Krathong on the water to let it float away.
Thai people believe that the Krathong takes away their sins and back luck. The purpose of the festival is to release bad luck and welcome good fortune in the coming year.
Learn how to make your own Krathong in this step-by-step guide.
The Loy Krathong Festival is also regarded as a version of Valentine’s Day in Thailand. During the festival, couples often release their Krathongs together and make a wish.
Traditionally in Thailand, young men and women did not have many opportunities to meet except during religious events. So Loy Krathong became a lovers’ holiday as it was a good opportunity for young men and women to spend time together.
Some Thai couples use floating Krathongs to make predictions about their future marriage and family life. They believed that if a couple’s Krathongs float away together, they would stay together forever. If the Krathongs separate, it's not a good omen.
Nowadays, it is not a surprise to see a young man proposing to his girlfriend on the day of the festival. Proposals are especially popular in Chiang Mai because this city holds the Yi Peng Sky Lantern Festival on the same day as Loy Krathong.
With millions of flying lanterns released into the night sky above thousands of floating Krathongs on the river, Chiang Mai is a very romantic place to say yes!
1. Strands of hair, nail clippings, or even bits of old clothes are often put into Krathongs to get rid of the negative energy from the past.
2. Coins are added to Krathongs to bring good fortune and as a way of making merit.
1. Release Negativity and Bad Fortune- The lit candle that sits in the center of the Krathong is a way of honoring Buddha and is also a symbolic way to let go of anger, sin, and bitter feelings and to move forward with life in the next year. In Buddhism, water is often used in rituals as a method of cleansing.
2. Wish for luck in the coming year and make predictions about the future- Many people believe that if a couple's krathongs float away together, they will stay together forever. It is also generally thought to be a bad omen if your krathong flips over or sinks, so make sure to build it well and do a float test before attending the real release!
3. Honor the Thai Goddess of Water: Phra Mae Khong Ka- Loy Krathong takes place right after Thailand's monsoons and the floating lanterns are a way to give thanks to the water goddess for giving the people enough water and rain for the year. It is also a way to ask for forgiveness for using too much water or contaminating it.
4. Honor Buddha- The festival is also a way to offer tribute to Lord Buddha as there is a legend that the festival began when the Nagas (a large mythical snake) offered Buddha a gift before he returned to heaven. To show his gratitude, he left a footprint in the sand near the Nanmatha River in India which was celebrated by a floating festival every year after.
Loy Krathong Festival began in the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom around 800 years ago. One of the most popular origin legends goes like this:
In the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom, King Ram Kamphaeng and his royal family took an extravagant cruise on the river to celebrate the lantern festival on the night of the 12th full moon of the year.
Nophamas, the King’s favorite consort, created an eye-catching lotus-shaped boat from banana leaves and set it on the river to honor Buddha and the water goddess.
The king was very impressed with Nophamas and decreed that every year on the night of the 12th full moon everyone should celebrate by releasing lotus-shaped banana leaf boats. Thus began the floating lantern festival, Loy Krathong.
Find out more about the legends and history of Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivals.
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. At nightfall, everyone heads to waterways or temples where religious rituals will take place and the Krathongs are released.
Today, Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand. The festival includes firework shows, competitions to build the largest and most extravagant Krathongs, and beauty competitions called Noppamas Queen Contests.
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, and Bangkok.
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 on the same day.
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. Contact us to secure a seat at the Chiang Mai Yi Peng Festival now!
Sukhothai is the birthplace of Loy Krathong and is one of the best places to experience this joyful festival. Loy Krathong in Sukhothai is celebrated for five days. One great thing about celebrating in Sukhothai is that most festival events are held in the Sukhothai Historical Park instead of being spread out all over the city.
In addition to the floating lanterns, in Sukhothai, travelers can experience a beauty contest, parades, folk music performances, and the gorgeous Sukhothai light and sound show.
Check out our 8 Day Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sukhothai Best Loy Krathong experience tour to secure a seat at Sukhothai light and sound show!
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 take place on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
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. If you are traveling as a couple, then this is a good place to be.
Bangkok also offers dinner cruise boats that run up and down the Chao Phraya River for Loy Krathong. You can see the beautiful floating lanterns as they surround your boat and many cruises will also put on a special show for the festival.
In Bangkok, 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 14 best places to go for Loy Krathong in Bangkok.
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.
Although Yi Peng's sky lanterns cannot be released during Loy Krathong in Phuket, the ocean and waterways look absolutely beautiful when dancing with the flickering candles from thousands of decorated floating lanterns.
The Lantern Festival is celebrated on all waterways and beaches including Patong Beach and Nai Harn Beach. Many people also release their Krathongs from piers including Rawai. Most popular beaches also host other festival-related events during the celebrations.
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.
1. You will need to book your accommodation at least 3 three months in advance. The best time to book is six months beforehand because good hotels and resorts rapidly sell out as the event approaches.
2. If you wish to buy a Krathong, make sure to purchase ones that are made from natural materials such as banana bark so as to not harm the environment.
3. If you are going to Chiang Mai to participate in the Loy Krathong ceremonies. Keep in mind that this is a religious event so you should make sure to cover shoulders, knees, and chest if you want to enter a temple. Don't wear tank tops, shorts, or anything revealing.
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.
Take a look at some of our most popular lantern festival tours and start dreaming about your trip to Thailand.
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8 Day Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sukhothai best Loy Krathong experience tour: A Unique Loy Krathong & Yi Peng Festival Tour
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!