On November 22nd, 2018, I celebrated a popular Thai holiday, Loy Krathong Day, with my friends and family instead of Thanksgiving. Loy Krathong can loosely be translated to “to float a basket,” and it takes place on the evening of the full moon in the twelfth month of the Thai calendar. It is celebrated by floating candle lit krathongs, or decorated baskets, down a river. It symbolizes any misfortune or sickness disappearing down the river. People like to make a wish when they float their krathongs and it sometimes seen as an offering to the Goddess of Water.
Learning about Loy Krathong Day//
On November 21st, 2018, I first learned the Loy Krathong song while volunteering all day at the local special education center, as we danced to it in our morning assembly. I didn’t have any plans for Loy Krathong yet and didn’t really know too much about it. While being a fun Thai holiday, it is nowhere near as talked about as Songkran. On November 22nd, 2018, I went to school and had English class. My friends had to do a graded presentation about Loy Krathong Day’s history and celebration. They even discussed the benefits of celebrating Loy Krathong in a more symbolic way, without actual krathongs as it can pollute the rivers especially when krathongs are made with materials that aren’t biodegradable, like Styrofoam. Some people even float their krathongs using online websites. I learned a lot and I wondered what I would be doing. I felt a little weird that I was the only one thinking of Thanksgiving but I was also ready to embrace this new holiday. After class, my friend Jennie invited me to make a krathong with her in the evening.
Making a Krathong//
After school, I met up with Jennie, we hopped on her motorcycle, and we were off! We sped through an area of town I had never been through before, passing countless shop windows and restaurants. In about ten minutes, we arrived at a market where we would buy supplies for our krathongs. We picked up coconut ice cream first, with toppings like sticky rice, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, and green rice noodles. We then quickly found flowers, banana leaves, and banana tree trunk to take home. After another ten minute motorcycle trip, Jennie and I arrived at her house. I met her family and we all sat outside making krathongs. Making them is rather easy but it takes a long time. First, we covered our banana tree trunk with banana leaves and push pinned it together. Next, we intricately cut and folded the banana leaves into patterns and then pinned them at angles around the trunk. In the center of the krathong, we decorated with flowers and put incense at the top. The whole process was about two hours, including chatting about everything under the sun with Jennie and her family and several corrections of my folding technique, but I had done it! My krathong looked beautiful and I was excited to show my family. Jennie and I took photos, I said thank you to her family and Jennie drove me home. The sun was beginning to set and Jennie and I talked about the night’s activities.
Going to the Festival//
At home, my entire extended family was ready to go to the festival as it had now gotten dark. They had purchased pre-made krathongs, as they don’t have enough time on a work day to make them. We all piled in a car and headed down to the river. My host sister and cousins quickly lit their incense and splashed theirs in the water. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, and parents did the same. I lit the incense, put mine in the river, made a wish, and sent my beautiful creation floating away. Hundreds of little dazzling white lights were bobbing in the distance and in the center of the river was a lit up sign for the event. We then turned and walked through the festival, filled with neon pinwheels, plenty of food stands, and lively music playing in the background. I didn’t really spend any time in the festival, as my host family wanted to put the young kids to bed. As we were walking back to the car, my grandparents were laughing and stopped me. They pointed upwards and together, we grinned at the full moon, shimmering white. I thought that though there was no turkey, mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie, I was definitely in the spirit of Thanksgiving in a funny sort of way, as I was thankful to be celebrating a completely different but fun holiday with the people I love and care about.