Today, the people of Thailand celebrate Loi Kratong and they go to rivers or ponds to float (loi) their handmade krathongs (candle lit boats) under a full moon.
They do this to seek blessings and pay respect to Khongkha or Ganga, the Goddess of Water and also known as Mother Spirit of the River, and ask for fogiveness for consuming and dirtying her water resources. Some believe that the ritual is meant to worship the Buddha's footprint on the bank of the Narmada River, while others say that it is to pay respect to Phra Uppakhut, one of the Lord Buddha's great disciples.
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A krathong is built around a base made of bannana leaves and carries a candle, three joss sticks and flowes. Great care is taken to decorate the kratongs with flowers and banana leaves, leaving room for the candles and 3 sticks of incense. It's believed the "boat" will carry your bad luck into the distance, and enable a better start to the following year. Loy Kratong is a big night for lovers and couples who make a wish together on this day will enjoy long-lasting love, especially if their kratongs remain together on the water.
The origins of Loi Kratong are unclear, but it is believed that it started in Sukhothai, (north of Bangkok). According to legends Noppas, a lady who served King Lithai of Sukhothai, made the first krathong and the festival is largely celebrated according to the true spirit of Loi Krathong at Sukhothai. Apart from Sukhothai, the festival is also widely celebrated in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Songkla.
The floating of the Krathong is followed by the releasing of floating lanterns into the sky. The balloon is made of paper like material and at the mouth of the balloon is a candle. The candle is lighted and the hot air from the flame engulfs the balloon. Once the correct pressure is attained, the balloon is released above your head and depending on the wind and the pressure inside, the balloon will shoot upwards of float sideways (sometimes crashing near you). It is an amazing sight to see thousands of lanterns floating the sky and joining the moon and stars.
This is the english version of the loi krathong song, courtesy of the folks from Tourism Authority of Thailand. For more information, visit www.loikrathong.net