Loy Krathong: the stories of the Thai holiday’s origins

If you live in Thailand, you’ve most likely heard of the Loy Krathong festival by now. You may likely be planning on going to a Loy Krathong float event to get a taste of the holiday.

But how did this holiday come into being? Understanding the origins of Loy Krathong might help you understand its significance in the hearts of the Thai people.

There are a number of theories about the origins of Loy Krathong.

Some Thais believe that Loy Krathong began in the 14th century, with a high-ranking concubine of the King of Sukhothai named Nang Noppamas. It is believed that during an annual celebration where royals offered votive floats to worship the Buddha, Nang designed an elegant float shaped like a lotus. She is said to have decorated the float with miniature bird figures. Today, “Noppamas beauty pageants” are sometimes held for women to compete in.

Loy Krathong: the stories of the Thai holiday's origins | News by Thaiger
Noppamas beauty pageant, photo by Learn Thai with Mod.

Meanwhile, some academics believe that Loy Krathong’s origins date back further than the Sukhothai period.

Loy Krathong is also said to have origins related to a Hindu festival that honoured the god Vishnu. Vishnu was depicted as meditating at the divine centre of the ocean. By releasing their offerings in rivers, servants of Vishnu hoped he would receive them, as they believed all rivers led to him.

Today, Thais who participate in Loy Krathong present their krathongs or floats, to give thanks to the water goddess Phra Mae Khongkha. In Hinduism, this goddess is known as Ganga. Since Thailand is largely an agricultural society, water has played a crucial role in people’s way of life since ancient times.

Loy Krathong: the stories of the Thai holiday's origins | News by Thaiger
Phra Mae Khongkha, photo by Thailex.

Another thing the krathongs symbolise is the “floating away” of sins and misfortunes from the past, and starting anew.

Loy Kratong translates to “floating banana tree trunk”. The banana trunks (Krathong) are typically shaped like a lotus and decorated with flowers, incense, candles, personal items, and craft-store buys.

This year, Loy Krathong falls on Tuesday, November 8, To learn where you can go to participate in the holiday, click HERE.

LifestyleThailand News

Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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