Loy Krathong 2023: A Festival of Water and Light

Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand to seek forgiveness from the Goddess of Water, illuminating the rivers with candlelit krathong.
Thailand
24 November 2023

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Loy Krathong, or the Festival of Lights, is one of the most popular festivals in Thailand. Originally a ritual to honor and seek forgiveness from the Goddess of Water, the festival is celebrated across the kingdom, illuminating entire rivers with candlelit krathong.

The event is held annually on the night of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, this year falling on November 27th, 2023, coinciding with Chiang Mai’s Yi Peng Festival.

In Thai, the word loy means “float” and krathong means “container, boat, or vessel,” hence people float a krathong decorated with candles and flowers onto rivers and canals (or anywhere with water!).

Phra Mae Khongkha: Goddess of Water

Source: SantiPhotoSS / Shutterstock.com

Believed to have originated in the ancient Sukhothai era (🇹🇭), Loy Krathong is closely tied to Buddhism. Due to Thailand’s traditionally agrarian society, waterways play a vital role in the lives of the Thai people. Thailand’s rivers are like the veins of the country, connecting communities and sustaining the kingdom’s crops and commerce.

King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (🇹🇭), known to be a devout Buddhist, proposed that his people pay tribute to Buddha and the Goddess of Water, known in Thai as Phra Mae Khongkha. It is also believed that as the krathong drifts away, it carries your sorrow and misfortune with it.

In one of the many legends surrounding the festival, the King’s consort, Nang Noppamas (🇹🇭), was the first to create a krathong. In awe, the King decreed that every citizen should celebrate the day with a decorated basket in the same fashion. In homage to the legend, Nang Noppamas is now the title bestowed upon the winner of Loy Krathong beauty pageants.

Modern Loy Krathong celebrations

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Although celebrated nationwide, the festival is not considered an official public holiday in Thailand. In addition to the tradition of assembling and floating krathong, the festival is also known for its spectacular Thai dance, historical plays, and concession stands—the hallmark of any Thai festival.

With environmental concerns at an all-time high, Thais are now rejecting the use of Styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials in making krathong that could pollute marine ecosystems. Festival-goers have called for a return to natural materials, such as banana leaves, banana stalks, and coconut shells.

Nonetheless, the popularity of the festival has led to rivers and canals choked off by the sheer number of krathong. Some Thais have elected to float a single krathong for the whole family, observe the tradition in their own homes, or use a Loy Krathong app to pay their respects online, eliminating their waste entirely.

Where to celebrate Loy Krathong

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While you can find Loy Krathong celebrated all throughout Thailand, wherever there’s water, some of the most famous destinations for Loy Krathong festivities are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Khon Kaen, and Tak.

  • Bangkok

In the capital of Thailand, Loy Krathong is a celebration not to be missed. This year, festivities are being held from November 24th to December 3rd at various locations including Yodpiman Flower Market, Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, Rama VIII Bridge, and Wat Arun

  • Chiang Mai 

The so-called “Bangkok of the North” is also known for organizing festivities, but is much more famous for the regional Yi Peng Festival, a floating lantern tradition that coincides with Loy Krathong.

  • Ayutthaya 

Ayutthaya, a 1-2 hour drive from Bangkok, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The festival has been held in many places around the historic city, with activities planned from November 26th to 27th at Wat Sam Ruan and Phu Khao Thong Reservoir.

  • Sukhothai 

Said to be the place of origin for Loy Krathong, the festivities in Sukhothai will be held from November 18th to 27th. The most famous location in Sukhothai takes place in Sukhothai’s Historical Park (the old city). Visitors can expect many activities which include fireworks and cultural performances. Sukhothai is located approximately halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

  • Khon Kaen

Khon Kaen is the fourth largest city in Thailand and is one of the four major cities in Isan or the northeastern region. The festival will be held from November 25th to 27th at the Si Than Lake, Khon Kaen University to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the university and it will be this year’s biggest Loy Krathong Festival in the Northeast of Thailand.

  • Tak

The city of Tak lies about 425 kilometers north of Bangkok. The Loy Krathong Festival in Tak will be celebrated from November 24th to 27th at the 200th Anniversary Rattanakosin Memorial Bridge. Visitors can expect activities such as a floating contest of 1,000 krathong known as Krathong Sai Lai Prathip and a procession of the 8 Krathong Sai in front of the King Taksin the Great Shrine. The opening ceremony and parade will take place on November 25, which is the second day of the festival.

  • Home & online

Due to environmental concerns, many Thais have elected to celebrate the festival from the comfort of their own homes, releasing their krathong in a garden pond or any open container of water. Many websites have also been developed specifically for Loy Krathong for people to celebrate online.

Click here for Loy Krathong 2023