Thailand's Loy Krathong Festival (or Loi Krathong) is often called the Thai Festival of Light or Thai Lantern Festival because it involves releasing floating lanterns or Krathongs on waterways throughout the country. This is one of the most popular festivals for travelers to experience in Thailand because of its spiritual significance and romantic beauty.

Krathongs are traditionally made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense sticks, and a candle. On the night of the full moon in November, these floating rafts are released onto waterways as a way to get rid of negativity gathered during the previous year.

Find out everything you need to know about Loy Krathong in Thailand including when it will take place this year, why it is called Loy Krathong, why people celebrate it, and how to celebrate it as a traveler.

What is Loy Krathong Festival

The history behind the festival is complex, and Thais celebrate it for many reasons. As the main rice harvest season ends, it’s time to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply, as well as an apology for polluting the waters.

Some believe that this is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges you have been holding onto, and including a fingernail or a lock of hair is seen as a way of letting go of a dark side of yourself, to start anew free of negative feelings. If your candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck.

Traditionally, Thais release their krathong into rivers and small canals called klongs. Nowadays, a pond or lake is fine. Many places host a string of cultural activities, such as Ram Wong dance performances, krathong-making competitions and a beauty contest.

People have started releasing lanterns in Bangkok, but this is only a small part of the festival. For the full lantern experience, head up to Chiang Mai for the Yee Peng festival, although people also often fly lanterns in Phuket and Samui.

Loy Krathong means the floating boat of light

Legend of Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand

Loy Krathong Festival began in the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom around 800 years ago. One of the most popular origin legends goes like this:

In the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom, King Ram Kamphaeng and his royal family took an extravagant cruise on the river to celebrate the lantern festival on the night of the 12th full moon of the year. 

Nophamas, the King’s favorite consort, created an eye-catching lotus-shaped boat from banana leaves and set it on the river to honor Buddha and the water goddess.

The king was very impressed with Nophamas and decreed that every year on the night of the 12th full moon everyone should celebrate by releasing lotus-shaped banana leaf boats. Thus began the floating lantern festival, Loy Krathong.

4 Meanings Behind Releasing a Krathong During Loy Krathong Festival

  1. Release Negativity and Bad Fortune- The lit candle that sits in the center of the Krathong is a way of honoring Buddha and is also a symbolic way to let go of anger, sin, and bitter feelings and to move forward with life in the next year. In Buddhism, water is often used in rituals as a method of cleansing.
  2. Wish for luck in the coming year and make predictions about the future- Many people believe that if a couple's krathongs float away together, they will stay together forever. It is also generally thought to be a bad omen if your krathong flips over or sinks, so make sure to build it well and do a float test before attending the real release!
  3. Honor the Thai Goddess of Water: Phra Mae Khong Ka- Loy Krathong takes place right after Thailand's monsoons and the floating lanterns are a way to give thanks to the water goddess for giving the people enough water and rain for the year. It is also a way to ask for forgiveness for using too much water or contaminating it.
  4. Honor Buddha: The festival is also a way to offer tribute to Lord Buddha as there is a legend that the festival began when the Nagas (a large mythical snake) offered Buddha a gift before he returned to heaven. To show his gratitude, he left a footprint in the sand near the Nanmatha River in India which was celebrated by a floating festival every year after.

Loy Krathong is also the Thai Valentine’s Day

The Loy Krathong Festival is also regarded as a version of Valentine’s Day in Thailand. During the festival, couples often release their Krathongs together and make a wish.

Traditionally in Thailand, young men and women did not have many opportunities to meet except during religious events. So Loy Krathong became a lovers’ holiday as it was a good opportunity for young men and women to spend time together.

Some Thai couples use floating Krathongs to make predictions about their future marriage and family life. They believed that if a couple’s Krathongs float away together, they would stay together forever. If the Krathongs separate, it's not a good omen.

Nowadays, it is not a surprise to see a young man proposing to his girlfriend on the day of the festival. Proposals are especially popular in Chiang Mai because this city holds the Yi Peng Sky Lantern Festival on the same day as Loy Krathong.

With millions of flying lanterns released into the night sky above thousands of floating Krathongs on the river, Chiang Mai is a very romantic place to say yes!

Loy Krathong is second Valentine's Day in Thailand

What is a krathong?

There is no equivalent word in English for ‘krathong’. You may hear people referring to it as a small boat, vessel, receptacle, or container. In the runup to the festival, many shops and market stalls will display ready-made krathongs, or in parts so you can assemble and decorate as you wish.

In the past, krathongs were made from natural materials – usually a section from a banana tree trunk, crafted into a lotus shape by using folded banana leaves, and these can still be found for sale around the main festival sites. More recently, Thais have become more creative in their craft and design the krathongs from coconut shells, flowers, baked bread, potato slices, some breaking with the conventional lotus leaf shape in favour of turtles and other sea creatures.

Interesting Things People Put Inside Their Krathong

  1. Strands of hair, nail clippings, or even bits of old clothes are often put into Krathongs to get rid of the negative energy from the past. 
  2. Coins are added to Krathongs to bring good fortune and as a way of making merit.

Loy Krathong vs. Yi Peng

Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are two similar but actually different festivals. 

First, their most important difference is perhaps where they are celebrated. Yi Peng is only celebrated in the north of Thailand, and its most elaborate celebrations take place in Chiang Mai. Loy Krathong, however, is observed all over the country. 

The second difference is the lanterns that are used and how they’re floated. For Loy Krathong, floats made out of banana trees, bread or Styrofoam are set off in water. But for Yi Peng, lanterns are made of bamboo, and fuel cells. They are launched to the sky rather than the water. 

Here are the major differences between the two festivals:

 

Here is dedicated article about Yi Peng Festival Chiang Mai

Where is the Best Place to Celebrate Loy Krathong Festival?

Although Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout all of Thailand there’s a few regions that take this Thai festival to the next level and have been noted as featuring the most spectacular and unique Loy Krathong displays. 

Specifically Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Sukhothai, Tak, Ayutthaya, and Phuket are all well known for their version of Loy Krathong celebrations with each area having its own unique style of celebrating the Thai festival. 

As we all know it’s impossible to be in all five places at once, so here’s a general description of each region’s celebrations to help you decide the best place to spend Loy Krathong!

Chiang Mai – Yi Peng Festival

In Chiang Mai, the Loy Krathong festival coincides with the regional festival of Yi Peng. Yi Peng is a traditional Thai festival dating back to the old Lanna kingdom. Like Loy krathong, Yi Peng allows participants to let their year’s bad luck and misfortune drift away, only into the sky! This, in combination with Loy Krathong’s water themed celebrations makes for a truly awe-inspiring display of light, tradition and Thai culture both on the water and in the sky

Bangkok - Asiatique Market and Chao Phraya River

If you’re in Bangkok, why not experience Loy Krathong the way the locals do at the Asiatique riverside night market? Celebrations there involve several key events, the main ones being held at the large boardwalk in front of Asiatique. The festivities involve lots of music shows and even some more traditional Loy Krathong festival displays; such as traditional Krathong preparation (you can try making your very own Krathong!) as well as floating Krathong processions and stunning fireworks displays.

Another popular venue for this Thai festival in Bangkok is by the riverbanks of the Chao Phraya river, specifically between the Krung Thep bridge and the Krung Thon bridge. There’s nothing like celebrating the Loy Krathong festival with Bangkok’s famous historical temples and palaces as a backdrop! Vendors line the streets all the way to the riverbanks where crowds wait patiently for boats to ferry them out so that they can launch their Krathongs mid-stream.

Sukhothai - Loy Krathong and Candle Festival

Known locally as Loy Krathong Phao Thein Len Fai, the Loy krathong festival in the historical town of Sukhothai is spread over 5 days and involves many events along with contests and markets, apart from typical Loy Krathong celebrations. Events take place both during the day and the night time and locals and foreigners alike are invited to participate. The highlights of the Loy Krathong festival in

  • The Greeting of the Dawn of Happiness – held at Tra Pang Ngoen pond where dry food is offered to Buddhist monks.
  • Wat Chana Songkhram’s famous Mahachat sermon.
  • Khon Marked classical Thai music and dance performances.
  • A replica of the ancient Sukhothai village and market.
  • Muay Thai & traditional Thai fighting displays in Sukhothai’s historical park.
  • The fireworks display and the Floating of the Royal Krathongs at Tra Kuan pond.

More than enough to keep anyone busy and a must for lovers of Thai culture and history!

Phuket - Combine Loy Krathong with Beach Relaxation

Phuket is a great place to go for travelers who want to experience the beauty of Loy Krathong while avoiding the typical festival crowd. In Phuket, Loy Krathong is a much more laid back event and most hotels and resorts offer classes on making your own Krathong and help you release it out to sea. 

Although Yi Peng's sky lanterns cannot be released during Loy Krathong in Phuket, the ocean and waterways look absolutely beautiful when dancing with the flickering candles from thousands of decorated floating lanterns. 

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on all waterways and beaches including Patong Beach and Nai Harn Beach. Many people also release their Krathongs from piers including Rawai. Most popular beaches also host other festival-related events during the celebrations.

If you are looking for a more local experience, you can head to Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Saphan Hin Park, or Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town. This is where most of the local Thai people gather to release their Krathongs and celebrate.

Ayutthaya - Loy Krathong Krung Kao Festival

The Loy Krathong Krung Kao festival in Ayutthaya is spread over 3 days. It’s a celebration in the old style of Ayutthaya and the main events take place in the Thung Phukhao Thong area, right beside the King Naraesuan the Great memorial statue. 

The highlights of these events include the hanging lantern competition featuring beautiful, ornately designed hanging lanterns, the Miss Noppamas International Beauty contest, the Noppamas Kids contest and several musical and cultural performances; as well as the various markets. 

The sprawling markets held during the Loy Krathong festival are a paradise for food lovers and bargain hunters alike and worth a visit in themselves!

Tak - Loy Krathong Sai Festival

The Loy Krathong festival in Tak is known as Loy Krathong Sai. Like other regions the majority of the celebrations typically focus around the river banks, in this case the Ping river. 

One of the things that makes Loy Krathong Sai in Tak so unique is the way the Krathongs are prepared. Rather than construct them out of Styrofoam, baked bread or banana leaves locals in Tak make theirs out of coconut shells! The shells are filled with wax to keep the wick in place, effectively turning the whole Krathong into a giant floating candle. 

One of the highlights of the Loy Krathong festival is the competition held amongst the local community. Teams of villagers help each other thread coconut Krathongs together and launch them down the river in a candlelit chain, creating an exceptionally beautiful display of light. 

The spirit of the competition is kept light and cheerful, since any team who is chain of Krathongs makes it down the river wins a trophy!

When is Loy Krathong celebrated?

Below is the calendar for Loy Krathong Festival until 2030 so that you can plan your visit around the date of festival.

Year Loy Krathong Dates Day
2020 October 31 Sunday
2021 November 19 Friday
2022 November 8 Tuesday
2023 November 27 Monday
2024 November 15 Friday
2025 November 5 Wednesday
2026 November 24 Tuesday
2027 November 14 Sunday
2028 November 2 Thursday
2029 November 21 Wednesday
2030 November 10 Sunday

Tips for Attending the Loy Krathong Festival

  1. You will need to book your accommodation at least 3 three months in advance. The best time to book is six months beforehand because good hotels and resorts rapidly sell out as the event approaches.
  2. If you wish to buy a Krathong, make sure to purchase ones that are made from natural materials such as banana bark so as to not harm the environment.
  3. If you are going to Chiang Mai to participate in the Loy Krathong ceremonies. Keep in mind that this is a religious event so you should make sure to cover shoulders, knees, and chest if you want to enter a temple. Don't wear tank tops, shorts, or anything revealing.

Loy Krathong’s Fun Facts

  1. The four components of a krathong are symbols of Buddhism. The candle is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. The joss stick is a symbol of purity and sympathy. The flower represents worship of monks who are disciples of Buddha. The worshipping item is used to make merit for deceased ancestors.
  2. Strands of hair, nail clippings or even bits of clothes that one doesn't use anymore are often put into a krathong to get rid of the bad stuff of the past.
  3. Coins are added to krathong to bring wealth and as a way of making merit.
  4. For the romantic at heart or young couples, Loi Krathong is the time to make a wish for happiness together.
  5. According to a survey done by a certain condom company, Loy Krathong is the festival, second to Valentine's Day, when teenagers lose their virginity.

Loy Krathong’s FAQs

Q: How to enjoy Loy Krathong Festival in Bangkok?

A: There are lots of things you can do to enjoy the festival in the capital of Thailand. Below are four ways to maximize your Loy Krathong experience in Bankok:

  1. Roam a public park
    Most public parks in Bangkok are close in late night. However, during Loy Krathong, many parks are open for the festival. So this is a good chance to enjoy the park at night and there are no entrance fees for each park and for floating your krathong as well.
  2. Book a riverside hotel
    This is possibly the most exclusive and luxurious way to enjoy Loy Krathong Festival. There are many riverside hotels in Bangkok, ranging from five-star hotels with spectacular river views to the affordable ones that might not be located next to the river bank but close enough to see the view.
  3. Book a cruise tour
    A river cruise tour is one of the best ways to really get into the heart of the festival by literally floating in the river! There are plenty of river cruises in Bangkok. Most of them will offer you a buffet on board, drinks (sometimes exclude), Thai traditional performances and live music performance.
  4. Visit riverside malls
    This can be the cheapest and most entertaining way to enjoy Loy Krathong. Because it's most likely that you don’t have to pay any fees like an entrance or activities fees. Without those barriers, you will feel the spirit of the festival more as well as the crowd! 

Q: How can I get a krathong?

A: It’s easy. You can buy one. You can find them at the street vendors, or if you are a guest of a hotel, it surely can offer you one. Another way to get a krathong is make one yourself. During the festival, most hotels in Thailand offer their guests chances to make krathong themselves. 

Q: How do I float a krathong?

A: After you have your own Krathong, head to the water source – most likely rivers, ponds, lakes or even pools! Then light up the candle and incenses, make a wish and let it go!

Q: Do I need tickets for the Yi Peng festival?

A: The festival takes places in various parts of Chiang Mai and is free for all. Traditionally, there are two major lantern releases each year: a paid event in English and the free public event for locals. 
The paid event is not run by the government like the rest of the festival and is usually held before or after the actual festival. Tickets cost $100 per person, and it takes place outside the city center. The benefit is that there are no crowds and there are explanations of the event in English. 

Get Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival Tickets Now

If you would like to experience the Loy Krathong Festival, please feel free to contact us at Sonasia Holiday. From the moment you arrive, we will have everything prepared for you including your transportation, hotels, meals, and festival ceremony entrance tickets. We can customize your festival experience to suit your pace, taste, and schedule.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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