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Loy Krathong Festival 2023, Thailand
November 27 - November 28
One of Thailand’s most beautiful and beguiling festivals, Loy Krathong is enormously popular with Thais and visitors alike. People flock to lakes and rivers to float their krathongs on the water. Thousands of little candle lights and flowers drift down waterways on small floats called krathong.
Even though this is not an official holiday in the Thai kingdom, the festivities span out over three days during full moon on the Thai calendar’s twelfth lunar month, resulting in a slight change of date every year.
The Origin of Loy Krathong
Historical accounts about the origin and meaning of the Thai Festival of Light vary. It is often claimed that Loy Krathong originated in Sukothai, a historical former Thai capital from the 13th to 15th century and now a Unesco World Heritage site. Other sources point to Brahmanic origins but adapted by Thai Buddhists to honour Prince Siddharta Gautama, better known as Buddha. Yet another interpretation is that of venerating and thanking the water goddess Phra Mae Khongkha for the plenitude of water during rice growing season, by offering her krathong.
Whatever its true origins, today Loy Krathong is celebrated as a way of marking a fresh start and do away with misfortune. A small float is typically decorated with flowers and contains some incense and a small candle which is then set adrift as a symbol of letting go of anger and bad luck. Some people will add to their float a few nail clippings or small strands of their hair representing anger and misdeeds.
Loy Krathong refers to the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai calendar, and although both are lunar calendars and both events take place at the same time, they are historically separate.
To discover more about Thailand, read Travel Begins as 40’s ‘Essential Thailand Travel Guide for the Over 40s’.
How to Celebrate Loy Krathong?
This being Thailand, any event is a good excuse to party and Loy Krathong is no exception. Apart from the beautiful illuminated floats let to drift off on water, this is also the time for music concerts, beauty pageants and krathong and lantern contests. In Chiang Mai, Thailand’s major northern city, hundreds of colourful paper lanterns are displayed at different spots along the moat that forms a square around the city’s historical quarters. It’s easy to participate and local people will encourage you to do so.
In Northern Thailand the Yi Peng lantern festival takes place on the same dates as Loy Krathong, so head to Chiang Mai and celebrate both.
You can pick up a cheap krathong – or even better, make your own – which consists of a little platform wrapped and decorated with banana leaves. As thousands of floats end up in the waterways all over the country, the Thai government encourages people to use biodegradable natural materials and has banned Styrofoam – the base of the float now often consists of bread or a banana trunk. Don’t forget to add some nail clippings or, if you want to be modern, a print-out of a few nasty text messages.
However, celebrating these festivals is not entirely without risk. The sight of little candles drifting down the water can trigger one’s romantic feelings and it is believed that when setting off a krathong together with your partner, your love for one another will endure if both krathong stay together. On the other hand, if they drift apart or worse – sink – it’s not a great sign. Unless, of course, this was a not very courageous but clever premeditated way of sabotaging an unwanted relationship.
If you find yourself in Chiang Mai or Bangkok celebrating Loy Krathong, then check out our 6 Things to Do in Chiang Mai Off the Tourist Trail and our 7 Undiscovered Things to Do in Bangkok.
When is Loy Krathong 2023
This year 2023 Loy Krathong falls on 27 November.
Best Places in Thailand to Celebrate Loy Krathong
A particularly popular place to celebrate Loy Krathong is in the historical park of Sukothai when its ponds are lit with small candles, the ancient ruins are illuminated, and drama, dance and music performances take place.
Also very popular is Chiang Mai where you can enjoy the Yi Peng spectacle at the same time as Loy Krathong. Much of the celebrations are focussed along the Ping River – for example near Narawat Bridge – which runs through the city, and along the historical moat. For a more spiritual experience, both temples Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phan Tao are good spots. Alternatively, find yourself a quiet place out of town and revel in watching a multitude of small yellow lights slowly drift through the black sky in silence.
The most important highlights in Chiang Mai is arguably the giant Kratong Parade which sees flower-covered floats competing for the most beautiful, elaborate and eye-popping creation. They can be watched driven down Thapae Road on the eve of Loy Krathong. The day after, on Loy Krathong Day, over 20,000 Lanna candles will be lit around the city moat and the Three Kings Monument while traditional dances are being performed by more than 200 women on the square in front of the monument (early evening).
For another sky lantern event in Asia, check out the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival Taiwan.
Bangkok is also one of the best places in Thailand for this event. The city’s Chao Phraya River is at the centre of the action while other popular spots include ponds in public parks such as Lumpini Park.
If you happen to be in the south of the country, many hotels and resorts in Phuket will organise their own Loy Krathong events. Needless to say, kids love all of this.
These are public celebrations so it’s free to join.
Accommodation for Loy Krathong
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Main image: Deposit Photos.