Loy Krathong is an annual festival that takes place on the evening of the full moon of the Thai lunar calendar’s 12th month, which usually coincides with the Western calendar’s November. Traditionally, Thais celebrate Loy Krathong (“loy” means “to float” and “krathong” is the thing you float) by taking a section of a banana tree trunk, decorating it with flowers and candles and floating it down the river to simultaneously honor the Buddha (venerating him with the candle), let go of one’s grudges and other burdens by floating them away, and make a symbolic offering to the goddess of water, Phra Mae Khongkha. Some Thais will also put their fingernail clippings or a lock of hair in the raft to symbolically let go of parts of themselves. Today people without banana trees to spare make “krathongs” out of bread or, with less environmental consciousness, styrofoam. Governmental offices and companies also organize rafting which are essentially raft “beauty contests.” (Check out some lovely photos from Loy Krathong.)
Speaking of beauty contests, Loy Krathong is a traditional time for “Nopphamat Queen Contests.” The mythical Nang Nopphamat was a companion of the 14th century Thai king Leothai who legendarily floated the first khratong down a river. Today Thai girls (and even girls in Bahrain) participate in pageants to honor Queen Nopphamat with their poise, their beauty and their lip-synching.
In class we’re going make simulated krathongs and maybe even prance about in a simulated Nopphamat beauty contest all the while listening to the traditional Loy Krathong song.