Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Loy Krathong 2009

Loy Krathong is held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November. "Loi" means "to float", and "Krathong" is a raft traditionally made from a section of banana tree trunk, decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, incense sticks, etc. During the night of the full moon, many people will release a small raft like this on a river or in lakes and lagoons.
While the ones in Phuket were more traditional, in Bangkok, we saw mostly bread "flowers", which went on sale over the past two weeks in supermarkets and at roadside stalls. I suppose the fishes will feast on the bread Krathong and reduce the clean-up later.

The festival probably originated in India as a festival of thanksgiving to the deity of the Ganges for giving life throughout the year. In Thailand, apart from venerating the Buddha with light, the act of floating away the raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges and anger, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot. Thais believe that floating a krathong will create good luck, so even though it often falls on a weekday, most families will take even their littlest ones to participate in the annual ritual.

Loy Krathong 2008 took place soon after I was born. I had just returned from the hospital. As part of Chinese tradition, Mommy and I had to be confined at home for a month, so everyone stayed in. Daddy and Mommy were worried I would be terrified by the celebratory noises - laughter, noise makers, fireworks - and it did get quite loud from 9pm onwards. But between their gentle lullabies and Mommy's breast, and with all the doors shut and drapes drawn, we made it through relatively unscathed.

Now that I am almost one, Daddy was hoping to take the whole family to the Chao Phraya River to witness the spectacle Bangkokian style. But Mommy was adamant that I was still too young and would be freaked out by the crowds and noises, so once again, we hid in the bedroom and under the covers as I tried to sleep through the noise. The only consolation came in the form of the Loy Krathong decoration at the Banyan Tree Bangkok lobby, where I was allowed to pose but not touch the display.

On the way back, however, we had to walk home from the MRT Station at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre. The Rama IV-Ratchadaphisek intersection had been blocked and all vehicles were turned back.

Instead of joy and good luck, there was a clash between the existing vendors of Klong Toey Market and employees of the area's new owner. Apparently about 10 shots had already been fired before we were there, but fortunately nobody had been hurt. More than 100 vendors used water, vegetable baskets, chicken and beef containers as well as a six-wheel truck to create a gridlock from 5pm till around midnight.

Until then, Daddy had been planning to start visiting the famous wet market and buying fresh food, fruits and vegetables for us. But I doubt he will follow through with his plan after witnessing this event.

I am too young to know who is right and who is wrong; all I know is that we should all try to get along. For everyone's sake, I hope they all went to lay their krathongs the next night and let their anger and grudges drift away. Happy Loy Krathong and good luck to everyone


J.C. said...

Gosh, you look so cute in the Halloween photo! Happy Loy Krathong to you!!

Louise said...

What a beautiful celebration. Those floats are exquisite.(But they look like food, and I would bet tempted to take a taste!)

I'm sorry if I missed it elsewhere, but your badge for My World Tuesday does not link back to the site. Please make sure you link in your post, either on the badge, on text, or on both.

And thank you so much for sharing this celebration. I love the meaning of it.

Lawstude said...

i love the header photo so cute. lovely shots of the festival too.

Jenn said...

Interesting float. Looks like a lot of work was put into it. Looks like a nice festival.

Glennis said...

It must take ages making those fancy banana leaves for the festival.
The stall holders must have been very angry about something to block the street.

hip chick said...

It all looks so beautiful. What wonderful colors! this was such an interesting post. I loved learning a bit about your world.

Mike said...

Fascinating and colourful!