Loy Krathong Festival

Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
Trip End May 10, 2007

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, November 5, 2006

Loy Kratong is both a pleasant and perturbing mixture of the Jewish festival of lights, Hanukkah, and America's Independence Day, the 4th of July - but on steroids. The three day festival comes during the 12th lunar month on the full moon, to commemorate the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the rice harvest. Its origins date back to Brahmin, in which Hindu people would give thanks to the goddess of water. In Thailand, the festival dates back about 700 years ago to the Sukhothai period. The farmers of Sukhothai used to hold a festival of floating candles until one year, a beautiful woman named Noppamas, a chief royal consort, made a Krathong - a special floating lantern for the festival. She made it from banana leaves and shaped them like lotus flowers and added flowers, candles and three incense sticks. The king was so impressed by what had materialized that he announced that every year to follow the krathongs would be floated on the water.

The festival includes fire works, flying lanterns,floating krathongs, and beauty pageants. When I first learned of the festival I though of how much my pyromaniac brother Gary would love it - a festival filled with fire and beautiful Asian women.

Loy Kratong is celebrated today in three ways. The first is with the Krathong's, first made by Noppamas. These boat like vessles are intricately designed and beautifully decorated. Braided banana leaves shaped like a lotus flowers and adorned with colorful flowers,lit candels, incense and often coins - seen bobbing up and down in rivers, canals and lakes. It is said that the Krathong's carry away your sins and wash away your bad luck and as your suffering floats downstream your new year will be filled with joy and good luck.

The second way to celebrate is with Kom Loy, or fire balloons. Made of thin paper, wire, and toilet paper dipped in wax, these balloons float through the sky creating their own concellations among the stars. Each balloon is filled with your wishes and as the fire inside creates enough heat the Kom Loy floats upward, carrying with it your wishes to the stars. It is a remarkably free feeling to make a wish and watch it fly through the sky on a clear night - concentrating on your kom Loy, mixing with hundreds of others.

Another important aspect of Loy Krathong is the "Noppamas Queen Contest" or beauty pageant as we know it. Which helps to create a more beautiful atmosphere to a festival filled with natural beauty and all four earth elements. The mahabhuta ("great elements") or catudhatu ("four elements") are earth, water, fire and air. In early Buddhism, the Four Elements were a basis for understanding suffering and for liberating oneself from suffering.

The only downfall of Loy Krathong is the fireworks. I'm not talking about beautiful firework displays choreographed to music, with grand finales - I'm talking loud, obnoxious, fireworks at all hours, for days on end. With no regard to the fact that they can take off your hand, or foot (I almost lost mine).I have not seen so many fireworks since my brothers and I would smuggle them back home across the Tijuana, Mexico border.

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In other news: Take a read of my latest PNN co-produced articles: "The Can Do Bar, Turning Tricks into Fair Trade" as published in City Life Magazine in Chiang Mai Click Here
and "Touched By the Keren" as published in TravelMag in the UK Click Here
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