Loi Loi Krathong
“Loi loi krathong, loi loi krathong, loi krathong is here and everybody starts to cheer…” This is a song my students have been learning to sing in both English and Thai and play on the xylophone in music class. I had read about this festival and seen pictures before, but I cannot think of a better way to see and learn about Loi Krathong firsthand than at Panyaden School in Chiang Mai.
I figured my students knew a lot about Loi Krathong from celebrating it and from learning about it in Thai history class, but thought a little reading comprehension activity in English couldn’t hurt. OK, and admittedly, I wanted to know more about the holiday. I got the information from Wikipedia, slightly revised and edited it for my students, and then made some reading comprehension questions below.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_Krathong – my source for the following edited version:
‘Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.
Loi literally means ‘to float,’ while krathong refers to the lotus-shaped receptacle which can float on the water. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree. A krathong contains food, flowers, joss sticks, candle and coins. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate in a few a days and be eaten by fish and other animals. The traditional banana stalk krathongs are also biodegradable, but styrofoam krathongs are frowned on, since they are polluting and may take years to disappear.
A krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. A low value coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. During the night of the full moon, Thai people will float their krathong on a river, canal or a pond lake. The festival is believed to originate in an ancient practice of paying respect to the spirit of the waters.
Thai people celebrate Loi Krathong to honour the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama with light (the candle on the raft). The act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one’s grudges, anger and impurities, so that one can start life afresh. People also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a raft will bring good luck, and they do it to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.
Loi Krathong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as “Yi Peng” (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Many Lanna-style lanterns (khom loi (Thai: โคมลอย), literally: “floating lanterns”) are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating through the sky. The festival is meant as a time for tham bun (Thai: ทำบุญ), to make merit.
People usually make khom loi from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air which is trapped inside the lantern creates enough lift for the khom loi to float up in to the sky.
The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, where now both Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from trees/buildings, and lights floating by in the sky.’
How well will you do on the reading comprehension questions about Loi Krathong?
1. When is Loi Krathong celebrated? __________________________________________
2. What does Loi Krathong mean?
Loi - ________________________________________
Krathong – ______________________________________________________________
3. What is a Krathong made of? _____________________________________________
4. What does a Krathong contain? _________________________________________
5. Why shouldn’t we make Krathongs from styrofoam? __________________________
6. What do Thai people do on Loi Krathong? __________________________________
7. Who is honoured for Loi Krathong? __________________________________________
8. What does floating the Krathong in water symbolize? ____________________________
9. Why do people float khom loi in the air? ____________________________________
10. How do khom loi float in the air? __________________________________________
Whew! You passed! So, now you get to see it in action:
Since hiking down to float Krathongs in the river wouldn’t be safe, we did the next best thing – float them in the pool.
Now I know, some of you are surely thinking, wait a second, kids are holding a flaming paper object?! Is that safe? Well, not entirely. To give them credit the kids know not to touch the fire. When the komloy float, it’s not a problem. Sometimes though the hot air isn’t strong enough to fully lift the komloy before it gets let go, and if wind blows, they might get stuck in a tree…or on the school roof. Yes, that happened. The fire was put out in an instant and no damage was done. Also, the rainy season just ended and it’s pretty tropical here anyway. It’d be difficult to start a big fire. If komloys do come down, they are made of biodegradable rice paper and bamboo, so no damage is done. Usually they float so high, you never see them again.
And here is Teacher Robert voicing what many are probably thinking:
Afterwards, we took the krathongs back out of the water so kids could take them home and float them with their families.
Back at Nugent Waterside, the place where I was staying, we celebrated too.
I guess I just don’t ever get tired of watching these…
In the US, it’s just post Halloween. I’d take a couple weeks of Loi Krathong over a day of Halloween. Since I’m here now, that’s just what I’m doing.