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Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival

by Tom Armstrong

Every year, rivers and streams across Thailand are brought to life by the Loy Krathong festival. The celebration, which falls on the night of the 12th lunar moon, is celebrated across Thailand and is one of the most charming sights to spectate. Also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’,  the festival is one of the highlights of the year for Thais and visitors alike.

Arguably one of Asia’s most colourful and spectacular sights, the festival celebrates Loi means ‘to float’ and Krathong means a special kind of hand-made raft using banana trunk, leaves and flowers decorated with incense, candles and coins.

Sky Lanterns
(photo courtesy of Takeaway and used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 licence)

What is the Loy Krathong Festival? 

Arguably one of Asia’s most colourful and spectacular sights, the festival celebrates Loyi meaning ‘to float’ and Krathong, a special kind of hand-made raft using a banana trunk, leaves and flowers decorated with incense, candles and coins.

The history of the Loy Krathong Festival is slightly obscure and dates back to Hindu origins in India. The festival has multiple purposes including thanking and seeking forgiveness from the water goddess for the harm caused to waterways.

Another purpose is to offer flowers, candles and joss sticks as a tribute to the footprint of Lord Buddha on the sandy beach of the Nammatha River in India.  It is also to show gratitude to the Phra Mae Kong Ka or Mother of Water and to wash away the previous year’s misfortunes. 

Participants make krathongs, small banana-leaf boats decorated with flowers, candles, and incense sticks, which they float onto a river or other body of water. The krathongs carry away negative thoughts, bad luck, and sins, symbolising a fresh start and a new beginning. Many Thai people believe that floating a krathong will create good luck and honour the Goddess of Water.

Overall, the Loy Krathong is a vibrant and meaningful festival.  

Krathong floating in Bangkok
(Image courtesy of Robert Pollai)

When is the Loy Krathong celebrated? 

The festival falls at the end of Thailand’s rainy season when lakes, streams and rivers are brimming with life and activity. The exact date changes every year as it is based on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month; however, it usually falls in November. It’s a big occasion for families who tend to congregate from across Thailand to celebrate together, making the Krathongs together. The ritual tends to involve saying prayers before releasing the rafts into the water.

Where is the Loy Krathong Festival? 

This festival happens nationwide and no matter where you find yourself in Thailand, there should be a celebration happening. If you are planning a trip to Thailand and want to learn more about what’s on offer in this incredible country, then download our complimentary Thailand travel guide

The Festival in Cities

In larger cities, the festival is a major event with parades, firework displays and masses of vendors selling traditional street food. 


During Loy Krathong in Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the focal point of the celebrations. The Riverfront has one of the largest events featuring fireworks displays and family-friendly activities. To avoid the big crowds, both Lumpini Park and Benjasiri Park are popular with locals. 

Chiang Mai

In Chiang Mai, Loy Kratong is also known as “Yi Peng” and is celebrated with a special twist. Here the people create the typical Krathong as well as Kom Fai (Sky Lanterns) which are launched into the sky creating spectacular scenes.

No matter where you go to choose to attend the festival, seeing hundreds of Krathong floating gently with their beautiful flowers and candles flickering is a sight to behold.

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