Loy Krathong, The Hidden Spirit of Thais

There is a belief about adding nails, hair and coins in the Krathong as a symbol of letting go of the past, letting go of bad things as the Krathong is floating away from us. It is the taking away of the bad luck in our life – Parita Nobthai of @thecrafthumpy

The Loy Krathong festival is one of the biggest events of the year for Thai people. There are many stories behind the creation of Loy Krathong and how this festival has become such a significant event both in Thailand as well as in Thai communities around the world.

Why do Thai people float a Krathong?

Thailand is an agricultural based country where rivers are an important part of Thai life. To show their respect to the river, where it is believed that the Hindu goddess of water, Pra Mae Khongkha exists, Thai people craft Krathong’s as a visual symbol of worship. Thai people can ask for forgiveness from the goddess of river by offering their float to her. The word Loy means float and Krathong means a container made with banana leaf. Loy Krathong physically means floating the container, while its spiritual meaning is related to getting rid of the negative feelings and bad luck.

 

Photo from www.phitsanulokhotnews.com

The secret of the banana tree

The Krathong is usually a piece of banana trunk decorated with flowers, banana leaves, candle and incense sticks. Different parts of the banana tree are used to make the Krathong as it is a local plant that is readily available. The best type of banana trees that are used for making Krathong’s is called Tani. The banana leaves of this type of banana tree is thicker and won’t split easily when decorating the Krathong.

A width-wise slice of a banana trunk is used as a base for the Krathong. The width determines how big your Krathong will be. If you need a small size Krathong, it’s better to use the middle or top part of the trunk.

 

Photo from www.welovethaiking.com

The Tani banana tree is what Thai’s commonly use for Krathong making and other types of Thai handicraft considering the thickness and flexibility of the leaf. The supernatural stories about Tani has been passed on to different generations. It’s believed that a female spirit called Nang Tani exists in the Tani banana tree. Thai people choose not to grow Tani in their property because of this. Apart from that belief, the Tani banana tree is useful in terms of household craft work and cooking.
The process of preparing the banana leaf is significant for smooth Krathong making. Usually, the Krathong is made up to a day earlier before the festival to ensure the Krathong is kept fresh and lasts throughout the festival. My Grandmother shared me a few secrets of preparing banana leaf for Thai handicraft.

  • Once you get the banana leaf, slice in half to remove the midrib
  • Clean them with the wet cloth, put them in a pile of four leaves and fold them together, usually we tie it up with banana rope
  • Place it in a bucket and cover with a wet cloth overnight, this is the secret of keeping the banana leaf last longer and it will be always in good condition for the next day

The art of making Krathong

There are three basic styles of how to use banana leaf to create Krathong. In each style, we split the banana leaf we prepared earlier into 1.5 –  2 inches by 6 inches pieces. The quantity of each set depends on how big the base of Krathong will be.

1.   Kleeb Paka “Floral Pedal”

2.   Kleeb Kulab “Rose Pedal”

3.   Horse Neck or Axe head

 

Kleeb Paka “Floral Pedal”

 

Kleeb Kulab “Rose Pedal”

 

Horse Neck or Axe head
Photo from https://hilight.kapook.com

The consistency of aligning each piece together requires skill and patients and that is what makes each Krathong different and more beautiful than others.

Krathong making can use more than one technique. For example, the Krathong in this photo applies three techniques for the design.

 

Photo from www.bangkokpost.com
Flower for making Krathong’s are Thai native flowers such as marigold, Globe amaranth, lotus and Canna lily. These types of flowers are easy to get around the house or from our neighbors. Roses and non-native flower also have been used in modern design.

 

Image by thecrafthumpy.com

Wooden or metal pins are normally used to attach decorative parts to the base. The Krathong is finished by adding joss sticks and candles in the middle, some Thais add sparkles as well.

There is a belief about adding nails, hair and coins in the Krathong as a symbol of letting go of the past, letting go of bad things as the Krathong is floating away from us. It is the taking away of the bad luck in our life.

Loy Krathong is not just the enchanted festival that bring lots of tourists to Thailand annually. The festival has a long history behind it and is related to the spirit of the Thai people, signifying how much we are related to our rivers and our spirituality. Nowadays, the festival has become a significant community event that brings people together.

You can get a glimpse of Loy Krathong Festival in Australia at the Parramatta River in Sydney.
When: Saturday 17 November 2018                   Cost: Free
Time: 4pm – 10pm
Where: River Foreshore, between the Barry Wilde and Elizabeth Street Bridges in Parramatta
http://www.parramattaloykrathong.com.au
Parita Nobthai runs The Craft Humpy
“a homely place where you can get beautiful handcrafted gifts directly from the maker”
Image presents Loy Krathong The Hidden Spirit Of Thais
Check out her amazing work here!
WEB https://thecrafthumpy.com
IG @thecrafthumpy
FB @thecrafthumpy
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