Loi Krathong: A festival of water and light

Kanokchan Patanapichai




Loi Krathong: A festival of water and light

Loi Krathong is one of the most popular Thai festivals and is held annually on the night of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, usually in November. This year, the festival will be celebrated on 31 October, and all of Thailand will once again enjoy a special moment as the full moon casts its light on the rivers, lakes and canals all around the country; all of them illuminated by spectacular candle-lit krathongs. 

In an ancient ritual that pays respect to the water spirits, Thais release beautiful lotus-shaped floats decorated with candles, incense and flowers on the water to honour and ask forgiveness from the Goddess of Water or Phra Mae Kongka as she is known as in Thai. It is believed that as the krathongs drift away from the land, they carry with them the past year’s bad luck and misfortune wiping the slate clean for the coming year. 

A Thai temple complex with rows of colorful lanterns.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Tak are the most famous destinations for the Loi Krathong Festival and are among the many places that host a string of cultural activities including traditional Thai dance and historical shows. 

While krathongs can be bought from various stores, these days Thais often create their own colourful floats rejecting Styrofoam and other materials considered hazardous to the marine ecosystem and environment in favour of a range of natural materials. 

Last year, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration collected 502,024 krathongs after the celebration, 96.3% of which were fabricated from natural materials including banana leaves, bread, coconut shells and other biodegradables. The natural materials were later sent to the Nong Khaem Incineration Plant to produce organic fertiliser.

In Bangkok, there are plenty of locations to celebrate the picturesque festival including parks, riverside embankments, temples, and tourist areas. If you’ve never experienced Loi Krathong, don’t miss this opportunity to revel in the truly magical sight of flickering candles sending a thousand pinpoints of light far into the night.

Krathongs floating in the Chao Phraya River at night, with Wat Arun temple lit in the background.

Kanokchan Patanapichai

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