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You’ve arrived in Chiangmai at the beginning of winter, when the weather becomes cooler, breezier. After the rains, water still flows from the mountaintops into the streams and rivers. This cool season is also known as “Harvest Season”. To give thanks for abundant rains and plentiful water sources, the people of Thailand celebrate Loy Krathong this month.

Scenes of Loy Krathong and the words to a famous Loy Krathong song.

The festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon of the year. In 2007, it falls on the Saturday, 24th of November, 2007. Several days of entertainment and festivities precede the main event. In Chiangmai, visitors will be treated to an air of festivity in the weeks leading up to Loy Krathong. People begin constructing their Krathong, a small raft to float down the river as an offering. They are traditionally cut in a circular slice from the trunk of a banana tree and decorated with intricate leaf-patterns and flowers.

A candle, incense sticks and a few small coins are typically placed as offerings. Archways of banana stems suddenly appear outside homes and businesses, and hanging lanterns, or Kome, are hung anywhere possible. With their beautiful colors and delicate paper streamers, these lanterns glow with a warm charm in the night, along with yellow flames of thousands of miniature terra-cotta nightlights flickering on walls and gateposts in the city.

What it all means ...

Although there are conflicting theories on how exactly the tradition began and evolved into its current form, it’s generally agreed that is based on the ancient Hindu concept of the Mother of Waters, brought into Thailand by the Hindu Khmers thousands of years ago. In Thailand, the tradition evolved into a kind of harvest festival coinciding with the end of the Monsoon Season and the resulting abundance of crops.

One popular and well-loved story is that hundreds of years ago in the city of Sukothai, one of the King’s Ladies in Court (Ms. Noppamas) organized the first Loy Krathong where floating lanterns graced the waterways to pay respects to the river deities. Somewhere down the line people began using the ceremony to honor Buddha as well, and today, decorative lanterns feature flowers and depictions of animals, zodiac signs and Buddha images. Sukothai remains the place in Thailand to see the decorative, glowing floating lanterns on the river.

It was not a religious festival despite its Hindu past, and is likely animistic in origin. Nevertheless, many Buddhists have assigned a religious symbolism to the event.

Where to see ...

In Chiangmai, the Loy Krathong Festival takes place along the Ping River on two nights of the full moon. On the first night, the people of Chiangmai take their lanterns to the Ping River and set them afloat. When the full moon begins to rise, people take their leaf boats to the water. They light the candles and the incense sticks. They place their lighted boats in the water and send them off. Some people make wishes, some express gratitude, and some just do this for fun. On the second night, Chiangmai hosts an illuminated parade with large floats of beautiful Chiangmai women dressed in the northern Lanna costumes of old. Both nights are full of fun. The setting of leaf boats on the river may be a somewhat serious affair, but it is in no way a solemn affair. It’s a time for merry - making and in Chiangmai as in other parts of Thailand, Loy Krathong is always a happy time.

Visitors may concentrate on the interesting places first which indicate the charming activities and times.

Chiangmai City Art & Culture Museum at Three Kings Monument

An opening ceremony of Loy Krathong is taken place from 18.00 to 19.00 Hrs, November 22. From this day till November 25, there will be Lanna musical performances, 18.00 - 21.30 hrs. Meanwhile a contest of Krathong - making with ordinary size will take place all day long of November 22 - 25 along with a photographic exhibition of Loy Krathong Festival.

A fair of local northern food will be held on Rajwithee Road nearby.

Court History Museum (The former site of District Court)

From 18.00 hrs. to midnight, November 22-24, in front of the former buiding of District Court, opposite to the Three Kings’ Monument there will be 2 beauty contests __ “Lady Noppamas” of Sukhothai history who founded the tradition of Loy Krathong. A participation of very very young girls to be “Junior Noppamas” will be more colorful all along.

Cultural Activities at Temples

Wat Loke Molee will have religious rituals along with the contest of hot balloons flying through a circle target during November 23-25, 09.00 - 22.00 Hrs.

Wat Inthakhin will host the exhibition __ “Lanna Heritage of Lanterns”, November 22 - 25, 09.00 - 21.00 Hrs.

Wat Jed Lin will hold religious preaching, traditional maze recreation, junior “Miss Noppamas” of Loy Krathong, and traditions of 6 hilltribes during November 23 - 25, 08.00 - 22.00 Hrs.

Wat Chetawan will hold religious preaching, how to make krathong, how to cook auspicious rice dessert, painting contest during November 24 - 25, 09.00 - 18.00 Hrs.

Wat Muang Sart Noy will demonstrate the Cultural Preservation of Loy Krathong Festival along with folk wisdom during November 26 - 27, 18.00 - 23.00 Hrs.

Tha Pae Gate

The gate area project is still under improvement, however the municipality government and citizens will release hot balloons to celebrate the 80th birthday of His Majesty the king from 18.00 Hrs. to midnight, November 22 - 25.

The area of Kalare Night Bazaar & Pantip Plaza

November 21 to 23, demonstrations and workshops of making Kome (lanterns) Dtoong (paper banners), and Krathongs by professional craftier at Pantip Plaza.

Shows and exhibition of art and culture will be held at The Pavillion, Night Bazaar.

The area of Governor’s Residence (near Nawaraat Bridge)

November 18 - 25, (all nights of festival) there will be open air folk market “Gaad Mua” of foods, souvenirs, etc along with festival activities next to the governor’s residence.

Mae Ping River & in front of Municipal Office

There will be a contest of small individual Krathong on November 24 along with a light and sound presentation focusing on boats in the Ping River. Meanwhile, visitors will also view the competitions of local sports __diving, rafting, and rowing in the Ping River during day time.

From 21.00 till 24.00 hrs. of both November 24 & 25, visitors will also see an array of fireworks and traditional Lanna Krathong in the river.

The municipality administration will hold a contest of big Krathong Parade on November 25 from 18.00 hrs. till midnight.

See related articles (Loy Krathong):

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