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Loi Krathong in Sukhothai

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July 4, 2014 / Thai / By
Ryan Dickinson

On a warn night in November, shortly before midnight, I pushed a krathong into a lake and symbolically washed away all of my unfortunate luck and misdeeds from the past year. I was celebrating Loi Krathong, one of the most important Thai holidays.

I celebrated Loi Krathong in Sukhothai, the supposed birthplace of the religious holiday. Much of the holiday is self-explanatory: loi translates into “float” and a krathong is a lotus-shaped decoration usually made of banana leaves. Fittingly, the main symbol of Loi Krathong is a floating krathong. The holiday is said to have originated during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng. During its first years it was referred to as “Jong Prieng” or the “Floating of the Lantern” ceremony. Interestingly enough it is believed that Thao Sri Chulalak, a favorite wife/concubine of King Ramkhamhaeng, founded the now iconic Thai holiday. In modern times it serves three purposes:

  1. It pays homage to a Buddha footprint at the bottom of the ocean, the Namatha Mahanathee.
  2. It pays respect to the Goddess of Water and is a way of apologizing to her for the overuse and pollution.
  3. It is a way for people to cleanse themselves of their troubles and pray for good fortunes in the future.

The celebrations for Loi Krathong in Sukhothai left me awestruck. They occurred in the Sukhothai Historical Park and were strikingly intense and beautiful. Many of the celebrations at Loi Krathong took place over a weeklong festival. I attended the festival twice: on a Wednesday and on a Friday. On Wednesday, the first day of the festival, I attended a few of the events with some fellow teachers. We explored a mock ancient Thai village, ate a traditional Thai meal as we listened to a concert, witnessed an incredible Light and Sound presentation, and watched a masked dance performance. At each activity the Thai teachers took the time to explain the cultural significance of what we were observing in English and volunteered constantly to take our pictures.

One of my favorite parts on the night was wandering around the mock ancient Thai village. It really was an immersive and enlightening experience. For part of the night I felt like I had been transported back to the past. We traded our Thai baht for seashells and bartered for our dinner with men and women wearing traditional Thai clothing. When it came time to eat, we bought our dinner at the ancient village and ate at a traditional knee-length Thai table. There was a wide range of food over open fires and in a style that I can only assume harkened back to old Thailand. There were even a few vendors selling their wares and dishes in little canoes in the ponds. I was a truly great opportunity. But eating a meal in ‘ancient Thailand’ I didn’t just learn about Thai culture and history, I experienced it.

As much as I enjoyed the spectacle of dinner, however, it wasn’t the most touching part of the day. I was beyond touched when the Thai teachers surprised all of the foreign teachers with paper floating lanterns. They had us write a goal on the outside of the lanterns, light the candles on the inside of the lanterns, and release them into the sky. Though this ritual is a part of another Thai religious holiday that happens to coincide with Loi Krathong, it wasn’t typically a part of Sukhothai’s festivities. We were told that whoever’s lantern rose the highest would have their wish come true. I won by default, because immediately after I let go of my lantern a security guard approached us and stopped almost all the other teachers from releasing their lanterns. Apparently it was against festival rules and a fire hazard for people to launch lanterns in that part of the park.

I returned to the festival on again on Friday with a friend. We attended all of the same events in addition to going to a barge procession honoring Thao Sri Chulalak, the supposed founder of Loi Krathong. After the procession we bought krathongs and pushed them into the center of one of the park’s ponds. As my krathong floated away so did my current worries, troubles, and burdens.

Sukhothai Historical Park

Country: Thailand

Province/State: Sukhothai

City: Sukhothai

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: Sukhothai Historical Park

Phone: +66 55 697 241

Website:N/A

Price Guide:$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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