Daily Archives: October 17, 2005

Loy Kratong, DC Style!

Sawasdee Krab True Thai Believers!

Ah, Fall.

A special time of year, the days get shorter and the leaves bloom into fiery bursts of red, orange and gold. The weather feels crisp and starts getting cooler or as our Thai friends would say หนาวมาก (cold very!)

In the country folks start shopping to buy big, ripe pumpkins. If your a city kid like myself you go shopping for a pumpkin spiced latte` at Starbucks. Back home in Alabama as a kid we took pumpkins to carve into Jack O’Lanterns for Halloween. Today in my DC neighborhood you need a pretty scary Jack O’Lantern to keep it from being mugged!

Right about this time of year folks start thinking about the coming holidays as thoughts turn to turkey, the dreaded Christmas shopping, Kratongs …Say what?

Well maybe not everybody except for Thai people here in DC and card-carrying Thai fanatics like me. For our fellow farang readers that don’t know what it’s all about let me enlighten you. Although not an official holiday in Thailand Loy Kratong, next to Songkran is one of the
most popular, and romantic, festival gatherings Thai people celebrate
each year. The festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon, which usually lands some time in November although this year in DC it’s in October.

Loy Kratong is a festival held to pay homage to the goddess of rivers and waterways, Mae Nam or mother water. Kratong supplies to make them can be purchased in the any market in Thailand. Usually they are supplied by the temple but you can make and bring your own if you like. At the festival there is dancing and music, best Kratong contests for adults and the kids, a beauty pageant and always lots of Thai food.

‘Loy’ literally translates to mean ‘float’, while Kratong is the Thai word for a sort of tray made out of banana leaves. Loy Kratong is celebrated by floating elaborate Kratongs decorated with flowers, candles and incense on just about any waterway in the kingdom. After dark when the full moon has risen then you lit the candle and incense sticks in your Kratong, make a wish and then set it in the water to float away carrying your wish to Mae Nam. The romance behind all this originated in the 13th century Sukhothai period Thailand and became an addition to the festivities especially as an event for couples to enjoy.

It all began with a fairy tale legend.

According to the story, Nang Nopamas, a royal consort in the court of King Ramkhamhaeng (the founder of Sukhothai), made the first Kratong as an offering to Mae Nam. She set it afloat on one of the canals of the
palace so that it would drift past her lover the King. The King was so
delighted with the creation, thus the origin of a saying that if two lovers set a Kratong adrift and it stays afloat until out
of sight, their love will last forever.

Definitely sounds romantic right?

Saturday night we celebrated our own Loy Kratong at Wat Thai here in DC. In the past it was celebrated on the National Mall with floating the Kratongs in the Malls huge reflecting pool. To me that was a cool touch to highlight a Thai festival here in America but maybe these days Homeland Security is too worried about terrorists in the mix. I hate to think of Secret Service agents’ body searching monks or taking away some little kids float as a threat to national security!

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