Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Loi Krathong Greetings from Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai at night has been illuminated by brightly colored lanterns for weeks before the big Loi Krathong celebration.

Loi Krathong is one of the most colorful holidays in Thailand!

"Loi" means "to float" and a "krathong" is traditionally made from a section of the banana tree.  The krathong looks like a small boat which is decorated with flowers, sticks of incense and a candle.  During the night of the full moon, Thais will float their krathong on a river, canal or a pond lake.

Loi Krathong at Watt Dok Kham in Chiang Mai

The first day of Loi Krathong began for me, at Watt Dok Kham where I helped the women prepare the ingredients for the special food to be cooked by the men that evening.

Novice "Bomb" stirring the special "celestial" food.
The ingredients included coconut milk, some 25 pounds of sugar, 20 cans of sweetened condensed milk, brown cane sugar, roasted peanuts, seseme seeds, cinnamon and cooked sticky rice.

It is believed this celestial food was given to the Buddha by a woman, which when he ate,  ended the Buddha's period of extensive fasting as the way to enlightenment.  The heavenly food is cooked for three to five hours on the night before the full moon, and is eaten on the morning of the full moon.

How did this celestial food taste?  Heavenly of course!

Watt Dok Kham in Chiang Mai .... here was where I spent the first day of Loi Krathong.  Helping to stir these large wok was a real job!  The cooking of the coconut milk started at 7:00 p.m. but the final product was not done until nearly 10:30 p.m.!  By the end, stirring as difficult since the consistency of the mixture was that of thick fudge.... heavy.... but one had to keep stirring so the mixture would not burn to the bottom of the wok.

Loi Krathong Parade in Chiang Mai

The 2010 Loi Krathong parade in Chiang Mai held all the pageantry and splendor of ancient Siam!  Beautiful women wearing colorful exotic silk dresses, riding on  illuminated and intricately carved floats brought back another time ..... 

Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights saw the streets of Chiang Mai crowded with people, as the looked on in awe of the marvelous floats, musicians, and dansers, who slowly moved along the main avenue entertaining those who'd come to celebrate Loi Krathong.

The glory that was ancient Siam!

Each of the 3 nights, the three hour parade, slowly made its way through the crowded streets of Chiang Mai.

Yi Peng - Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai - lanterns!

Yi Peng at Watt Dok Kham in Chiang Mai.... with the full moon high in the sky, the lantern floated up to talk with the moon.... or did it?

Yi Peng, the second month of the northern Thailand Lanna calendar, and Loi Krathong, the full moon of the 12th month are celebrated at the same time. 

Lanterns, made out of rice paper, are sent into the night sky during the celebration of Yi Peng and Loi Krathong.  Yi Peng is a northern Thailand celebration, dating back to the 13th century Lanna Empire of Chiang Mai.

The rice paper lanterns are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky as the air currents move them back and forth across the night sky.

Chiang Mai Loi Krathong - honoring the Buddha and an offering to the water spirit.

2010 Loi Krathong Greetings....
Chiang Mai, Thailand!

Loi Krathong wishes and blessings.

Loi Krathong flower boat made of banana leaves, orchids, incense sticks and a candle.

Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai calendar. 

On this night, the Thai people honor the Buddha, by placing a candle on a banana leaf boat, which they release into the river.

Apart from venerating the Buddha with light (the candle on the raft), the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot.

Many Thai believe that floating a raft will bring good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.