Loy Krathong Festival
One of the most popular festivals in early November is the Loy Krathong Festival. It takes place at a time when the weather is fine as the rainy season is over and there is a high water level all over the country.
“Loy” means “to float” and a “Krathong” is a lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves. The Krathong usually contains a candle, three joss-sticks, some flowers and coins.
In fact, the festival is of Brahmin origin in which people offer thanks to the Goddess of the water. Thus, by moonlight, people light the candles and joss-sticks, make a wish and launch their Krathongs on canals, rivers or even small ponds. It is believed that the Krathongs carry away sins and bad luck, and the wishes that have been made for the new year due to start. Indeed, it is the time to be joyful and happy as the sufferings are floated away.
The festival starts in the evening when there is a full moon in the sky. People of all walks of life carry their Krathongs to the nearby rivers. After lighting candles and joss-sticks and making a wish, they gently place the Krathongs on the water and let them drift away till they go out of sight.
A Beauty Queen Contest is an important part of the festival and for this occasion it is called “The Noppamas Queen Contest”. Noppamas is a legendary figure from the Sukhothai period. Old documents refer to her as the chief royal consort of a Sukhothai King named “Lithai”. Noppamas was said to have made the first decorated Krathong to float in the river on the occasion.
In Bangkok, major establishments such as leading hotels and amusement parks organise their Loy Krathong Festival and the Krathong contest as major annual function.
For visitors to Thailand, the Loy Krathong Festival is an occasion not to be missed. The festival is listed in the tourist calendar. Everyone is invited to take part and share the joy and happiness.
New Year’s Day
Thailand is well-known for her festivals which take place all the year round. Most of these festivals are influenced by Buddhist and Brahminical religions, however, with the passage of time a number of them have been adopted in deference to the international practice.
Actually, the official New Year’s Day of Thailand has undergone several changes. Once it used to fall at the end of November. Later, during the reign of King Rama V(1868-1910) it was moved to a date round about April and then New Year’s Day was changed to April the first. The universal practice of celebrating the new year on January 1 was adopted in 1941 in deference to the western calendar and this is one of a number of changes aimed at modernising the country.
Though January 1 is regarded as official New Year, the majority of Thais still regard the middle of April (Songkran) as their new year’s day, and on this auspicious occasion a week-long celebration is held throughout the kingdom. Most of activities on Songkran Day involve water throwing, building sand pagodas and pouring lustral water on the aged as a means of blessing. To be frank, a celebration on January 1 is not so popular as that of Songkran. Normally, before the upcoming January 1, people will exchange greeting cards and gifts. Since on this auspicious occasion, a few grand celebrations are held in the kingdom, people take this opportunity to travel upcountry to visit their relatives or spend holidays at a tourist attraction site, while those stay at home will prepare food and other necessary items to make merit on the early morning of January 1 and then take part in various charitable activities held in various places.
At the same time, several companies take this opportunity to give a bonus and announce promotions to their employees who later cash money to buy gifts for relatives and friends before heading to their hometown for a long vacation.
Obviously, in Thailand people celebrate New Year three times a year, namely ; the Thai traditional New Year or Songkran, January 1 and the Chinese New Year. Out of these, Songkran is the most joyous occasion which draw people from all walks of life to take part in a week-long celebration. Meanwhile, the Chinese New Year is important especially for Thai organisations will close their business for several days so that the employers and their employees will be able to celebrate the auspicious occasion with their relatives at home or spend a long holiday in a place they like.