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Loy Krathong (River Floating Lanterns) Festival

floating kratongs on the river

Legends and myths abound as to the origins of Loy (floating) Krathong. In the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai some 700 years ago in the royal court there was a lady with great artistic skills named Naang Noparmart. She loved to make little lotus-shaped "Krathong" (pronounced gra-tong) with banana leaves and float them on the water with a candle, incense, and other decorations as homage to the Buddha. Even this legend mentions that the local people already celebrated a lantern festival by floating decorated lanterns on the river. When the king came to judge the best lanterns, he awarded Naang Noparmart the first prize. He further decreed that once a year, on the night of the full moon, a Buddhist holiday should be celebrated by floating lotus-shaped banana leaf boats.

There are several other legends about the origin of Loy Krathong, however, most are all similar in one aspect : they all suggest a leisure-time festival that was adopted into Buddhism a time long after the religion had originated.

However, there is still another side to the origins of this festival. King Chulalongkorn himself wrote under the title.. "The King's Ceremonies During the Twelve Months of the Year" various comments on Loy Krathong. He also put other comments on and beliefs of his own in written form. Among these, he says that Loy Krathong has nothing to do with any recognized ceremony or ritual; it is only time of rejoicing for all the people and not only for members of the royal family. In addition, King Chulalongkorn wrote that the Loy Krathong festival had nothing to do with either Buddhism or Brahmin beliefs in India. This esteemed monarch did say was that he thought the idea of the floating lanterns had something to do with the practice of the Thai kings of the Northern Kingdom when Sukhothai was at its height about 700 years ago.

This last comment is a most interesting observation by H.M. the King because the origins of Loy Krathong can be traced to the idea of water spirits and the floating away of all wrongdoings and uncontrollable calamities that befell people of the north and northeastern parts of Thailand. This is only natural, however, in as much as the North is a major rice-growing area, and also a place where superstitions have held on more strongly than in other parts of Thailand.

The earliest krathongs were simple and constructed from natural materials: the trunk of a banana tree was cut for a base while the leaves of the banana trees were carefully folded in the shape of lotus petals and attached to the base. Finally, flowers, incense sticks and candles were added. People wanting to create the most beautiful would take great pride in designing and making their krathongs.

The tradition continues today in much the same spirit. The natural materials used by our ancestors were entirely biodegradable. However, modern technology has created a nightmare to haunt the celebration. The use of Styrofoam which is easy to carve and shape with excellent flotation qualities has made the festival somewhat of a mixed blessing. More recently, on the morning after Loy Krathong, the banks of canals (klongs), river banks, parks, ponds, and the mouths of rivers are littered and choked with piles of Styrofoam. The cleanup can take up to several days. This year use only biodegradable krathongs when participating in the celebration.

Several interesting events will be taking place at Chiang Inn Plaza on Thursday 13 November 1997 from 1900 hours until midnight:

  1. Kome parade from Thapae Gate to Changklan Road (Against one way direction, therefore traffic will be closed during the parade). Almost all of these komes are in contest.
  2. Folk Music and Shows.
  3. Demonstration on how to make kome, dtoong (Lanna style banner), and krathong.
  4. Open-air Northern food market.
  5. Painting contest of Land and River Lanterns.
The most popular activities and events below are sponsored by the Chiangmai Municipal Office. (Other activities are not included).

1997 Activities and Events
Date Time Activities Location
13 13.00-17.00 Rafting contest Ping River
17.00-21.00 Small individual Demonstrated Krathong Contest Municipal Office
14 08.00-12.00 Boat Rowing Contest Ping River
09.00-16.00 Hot-air Balloon Contest Municipal Office
17:00-23:00 Small individual Demonstrated Krathong Contest Municipal Office
18.00-24:00 Small Krathong (previously prepared) Contest Municipal Office
20.00-24:00 Cultural Folk Shows Municipal Office
15 08.00-12.00 Final Rowing Contest & Awards Ping River
20.00-24:00 Cultural Folk Shows Municipal Office
18.00-24.00 Colorful Parade of Floats & Pretty Maidens From Thapae Gate to Municipal Office

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