All You Need to Know About Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival
What is Loy Krathong Festival and When is it?
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 mid-November.
In 2019, it takes place on November 11th.
Why it is called Loy Krathong Festival? And what is a Krathong?
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.
Loy Krathong is also the Thai Valentine’s Day
The Loy Krathong Festival is also regarded as valentine’s day in Thailand. During the festival, couples make wish to stay together when they release their Krathongs on the river.
In the past in Thailand, young men and women did not have the opportunity 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.
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!
Interesting Things People Put Inside Their Krathong
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.
Three Reasons Behind Releasing a Krathong During Loy Krathong Festival
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.
2. Honor the Thai Goddess of Water: Phra Mae Khong Ka. 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.
3. Honor Buddha The festival is also a way to offer tribute to the footprint of Lord Buddha that was left on the sandy beach of the Nammatha River in India.
Legend of Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand
Loy Krathong Festival began in the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom around 800 years ago. One of the 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. Massive firework shows and carnivals went on all evening.
Nophamas, the King’s favorite concubine, created an eye-catching lotus-shaped boat from leaves and set it on the river to float away 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.
Another legend with a slightly different story goes like this:
The Sukhothai King, Ram Kamphaeng, believed that his people shouldn’t take their good fortune for granted and that it was necessary to pay tribute and hold a ceremony to respect the water goddess, Phra Mae Khong Ka.
A woman named Nophamas created the first beautiful Krathong to float on the river to honor the goddess. She explained to the king that at the riverbank of the Nammatha in India, he did the same thing to pay tribute to the footprint left by Lord Buddha.
King Ram Kamphaeng was quite impressed and later decreed that every year on the night of the full moon of the 12th lunar month in Thailand, citizens should celebrate the Floating Lantern Festival to honor the water goddess and Buddha.
How do people celebrate Loy Krathong Festival today?
Today Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand. The festival includes firework shows, building large and extravagant Krathongs, and competitions called Noppamas Queen Contests where people compete to build the most beautiful Krathong.
Where is the Best Place to Celebrate Loy Krathong Festival?
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.
1. Chiang Mai: Two Festivals in One
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!
2.Sukhothai: the Birthplace of Loy Krathong
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!
3.Bangkok: Events Alongside Chao Phraya River
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 15 best places to go for Loy Krathong in Bangkok.
Tips for Attending the Loy Krathong Festival
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.
Get Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival Tickets Now
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