The festival has been celebrated every year since the mid-19th century and is given in honour of the water goddess, Pra Mae Khongkh. It’s the Thai people’s way of giving thanks to the goddess for providing the water so the crops can grow and they can feed their family. Apologies are also offered at the same time for polluting the water.
The festival is celebrated anywhere there is water. As the sun sets and evening falls, you’ll see hundreds of people heading towards the beaches and lakes around Phuket holding their creations. Traditionally, ‘Krathongs’ are made from a slice of a banana tree wrapped in banana leaf. The top is then decorated with flowers and banana leaves folded into decorative shapes, candles and incense sticks.
Before floating their Krathong, Thai people add a lock of hair, sometimes even a fingernail cutting, as a symbolic cleansing, and a few coins to encourage prosperity.
Light the candles and incense, make a wish, and gently place it in the water where it will float away downstream, carrying away any bad luck and washing away your problems from the previous year. Most people wish for romance and health for them and their family.
The celebration is loved by Thais and visitors and is a huge social event. At some popular places, such as Surin Beach and Phuket Town, there is a carnival atmosphere with dancing and singing competitions, anything from country love songs to Thai pop favourites. Food stalls selling a selection of Thai snacks line the entrance and tables and chairs are set out on the grass or sand where you can sit, eat, and watch the show.
At the larger venues, they run a competition where huge elaborately designed Krathongs made by local businesses are judged and receive 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Cultural displays, such as the traditional Thai folk dance of Ram Wong are performed and there may even be a beauty contest. Children are entertained with puppet shows and have a chance to star in their own talent event.
During the evening, the night sky is filled with twinkling paper lanterns. A burning flame fills them with air and as they catch the wind and float upwards prayers are offered and wishes made. The sky is lit up and they make a pretty sight as they float away on the evening breeze under the gaze of the full moon.
Many hotels organise their own celebration for Loy Krathong with food, dancing and music and everyone is invited to join in the festivities.