Flickering candlelight, colorful flowers and reflective water: Thailand’s Festival of Lights, known as Loi Krathong, is a magical feast for the eyes. This spectacular ritual—which takes place under a full moon in the 12th lunar month of the traditional Thai calendar—falls on Nov. 27 and 28 this year.
Locals gather at a river, pond or canal—some to symbolically release bad feelings; some to pay their respects to the goddess of the river, Pra Mae Khongkha; others to simply sing and dance with family and friends. Also known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai and Thailand’s northern regions, to mark the occasion we set paper lanterns called kum loy aloft in the night sky.
And also for Loi Krathong, we float krathong—little boats made of banana leaves and decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks—on the water at dusk. The glowing krathong cast beautiful reflections as they bob along on the dark, rippling water. It’s a sight you’ll never forget.
Here at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, I have so much fun teaching kids how to make their own krathong. For an interesting craft you can do at your own home, make a krathong version with your children, and celebrate the Festival of Lights with us!
You will need:
*For the base: one round or oval cross section of an environmentally-friendly, lightweight material or wood; such as Balsa wood, about one-inch thick and 8/10 inches in diameter (pictured is a piece of banana trunk, which we traditionally use here).
*12 banana leaves, cut into 1.5-inch strips. (Banana leaves are available at Asian grocery stores and some florist shops. These leaves are traditional; but any large, fairly sturdy oval leaf will work.)
*Some colorful flowers
*About 20 small pins
*3 incense sticks and a candle
1. Wrap one banana leaf strip around the outside of your base and secure with pins.
2. Fold the rest of the banana leaf strips into lotus petal shapes (pictured): to make one petal, fold the strip in half horizontally, and then open it flat again. Fold down the top left corner and the top right corner of the strip, which creates a triangle at either end.
3. Then fold each triangle toward the middle of the strip, making a diamond shape.
4. Take the right triangle (the right half of the diamond) and layer it slightly on top of the left triangle (the left half of the diamond), creating a curve in the petal. Place some pins through the base of the petal, through all the layers of leaves. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect and precise!
5. Pin the petals all around your base, overlapping slightly to create a lotus flower design.
6. Place flowers, three incense sticks and a small candle in the center. Tradition says that if you’d like to be blessed with riches, add a few coins. To get rid of bad luck, add a small piece of hair or fingernail trimmings. Then float your krathong in the water and watch the candlelight dance.
PS: Tell the kids: according to tradition, if two krathong float beside each other, that means their owners love each other!
Read more on Chiang Mai, Thailand in Four Seasons Magazine.
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Ploenpit Saokaew (known to most by her nickname “Header”) was born and raised in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She started part-time work as a dining attendant at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai while earning her bachelor’s degree in education. Today, she is an attendant at the resort’s Gecko Club, home to the kids’ program, where she develops fun activities, games and crafts for the littlest guests.
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