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This important and fun-filled festival occurs every year at the full moon in the 12th month of the Thai calendar. In the western calendar, this means November and in 2011 the day is the 10th. The importance of the event is probably only overshadowed by the Thai New Year Songkran which is held in April.
Translated literally, "loy" means to float and a "krathong" is a floating vessel which is traditionally made out of banana leaves, although it is not uncommon to see them constructed from synthetic materials these days.
The "raft" will contain a flower, a candle and three incense sticks that are lit before the vessel is floated away. It is customary to make a wish before the launch and it is believed that if the candle remains burning until out of sight, the wish will be granted.
The practise is generally recognised as originating in India from Hindu traditions of thanking the gods for the rains and the start of the main rice harvest. Buddhist beliefs embraced the festival in Sukhothai some 700 years ago and the candle is a symbol of Buddha. Modern-day Thais believe that the act of floating the krathong away releases them from any pent-up bad feelings and that their life starts anew from this day. As with the Hindu gods of water, the festival is in honour of Phra Mae Khongkha, The Thai Goddess of Water.
If you're in Hua Hin for this festival, you really should make a point of joining in. It usually incorporates a beauty pageant that follows a set route route around the centre of town and firework displays. All the Thais will be heading for a stretch of water, be it lake, canal or even the sea to set their krathongs afloat. (Hopefully, the tide is not incoming on this day). You will be able to find many stalls around Hua Hin selling ready made krathongs for you to "wash away your troubles and woes".
You're also sure to hear one song in particular that will be played and sung all over town on the day. The English version of it goes thus:
November full moon shines,
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong,
and the water's high in the river and local klong,
Loy Loy Krathong, Loy Loy Krathong,
Loy Krathong is here and everybody's full of cheer,
We're together at the klong,
Each one with his krathong,
As we push away we pray,
We can see a better day.
If you want to join in discussions regarding this and other Hua Hin festivals, visit our Events and Activities forum.