Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง), sometimes spelled as Loy Kratong, is a colorful festival held every year on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar. This Thai Festival is celebrated all over Thailand, and Phuket is no exception. The festival features beautifully illuminated lanterns, which are either carried, displayed in houses and temples, or even launched into the night sky. Lights are also set adrift on waterways. In 2010 the festival will be held over two nights, beginning on November 19.
History of Loy Krathong
The Loy Krathong Festival was originally a ceremony where people paid their respects to Hindu deities. People would make lanterns using candles and paper, which would then be displayed in the homes of royalty, rich people or high-ranking officials. Later, at the urging of King Mongkut (Rama IV), it was adopted by Buddhists as a ceremony to honour the Buddha. In this new version people would make various kinds of lanterns, which would then be donated to the temples. People would say prayers to ask that their wishes and hopes for the future be fulfilled. Of course, many of the older beliefs are still retained. The lights that are floated on the water are meant to symbolise the drifting away of bad luck and misfortune, but for many Thai people it is also an opportunity to honour the goddess of water, Phra Mae Kong Ka. (พระแม่คงคา).
Loy Krathong Illuminated Lanterns
There are several different kinds of illuminated lantern or Khom. They are made of paper, but often contain a bamboo cylinder inside it to protect the paper from the heat of the candle. Some are carried during parades, others are used to decorate homes and temples. Finally, there is the famous Khom Loy. This lantern is actually a small hot air balloon which is launched into the air to carry away bad luck.
Loy Krathong Sky Lanterns
The Khom Loy, also known as Khom Fai, is a cylinder of paper about one meter high, braced with wire circles. Suspended from the cylinder is a tray containing cotton soaked in kerosene. Fireworks and firecrackers are also often attached. These catch fire and explode after the balloon is launched. Once the cotton is lit it takes about a minute drive before the balloon is hot enough to fly.
People will often say a short prayer before the balloon is released. Sometimes they will also place their address in the balloon, or write it on the outside. Anyone who later finds the balloon can then claim money from the sender. In this way the good fortune is shared.
Loy Krathong Floating Lights
The Krathong (Kratong) is a small floating offering about 20 centimeters in diameter. Traditionally made from the leaves and wood of the banana tree, the raft is decorated with flowers, a candle and an incense stick. People often leave a small coin in the krathong, and occasionally they will leave a lock of their hair or even nail clippings. On the night of the full moon people will light both the candle and the joss stick, and allow the krathong to float away. As with the khom loy, it is a way of getting rid of bad luck. The thousands of krathong in the water and the thousands of khom loy in the sky, together with the constant barrage of fireworks, makes for an unforgettable experience.
Loy Krathong Noppamas Queen
Beauty contests are a feature of Loy Krathong celebrations. According to legend Noppomas was a consort of the King of Sukothai in the fourteenth century. She was the daughter of a Brahmin priest at the King’s court. She made the first krathong out of banana leaves in the shape of a lotus flower and presented it to the King. In Phuket the hopeful contestants can be seen on top of the floats at the Loy Krathong Parade.
Loy Krathong in Phuket
In Phuket there are no wide rivers, but it does have its many famous beautiful beaches, canals and waterways, and even a lake on which Loy Krathong can be launched. Some of the larger floating sites on the island include the Saphan Hin Bridge in Phuket City, Klong Mudong in the mangrove forest on the way to Khao Khad, Bangawad Reservoir and Nai Harn Lake. Krathongs can be floated from the beach at Patong opposite Soi Bangla, at Wat Tai on Chalong Beach, and at the Hilton Arcadia Resort on Karon Beach and also at the Laguna Phuket Resort. The biggest parade will be at Patong Beach. This will be on November 19, 2010, starting just after sunset. The normal route is from the Sea Pearl Junction to Soi Bangla. It will include parades of giant krathongs, dancers and music shows. Beauty Contests will also take place, including a Miss Beer Bar Contest. Khom Loy are launched all over the island.