This was the message that Kruu Jinda, head of Prathom English at Thida, had me write on the whiteboard in the foreigner teacher’s room on Monday. A “krathong-making contest” probably sounds pretty weird if you don’t live in Thailand, but on the flipside, I actually felt pretty weird not knowing how to make a krathong. It seems like even the smallest of students knows how to decorate a small circular raft (the krathong) with folded banana leaves and flowers.
“Loi” means “to float,” so when you put the two words together, Loi + Krathong, you get a good idea of how to celebrate: “float raft.” In the evening, everybody gathers by the edge of the river to make wishes and release their rafts, hoping that it will carry their bad luck away and help them start a new year. Loi Krathong occurs at the end of the rainy season to apologize to the water for making it dirty (or so says the English textbook that I use for teaching; the textbook glosses over the fact that sending krathongs into the river actually makes the river dirty).
Following Thai tradition, each one of us put some strands of hair and a few bitten fingernails into the 50 baht krathongs we had bought. Then we lit the candles and the incense and finally freed them into the river. We watched the rafts bobbing amidst the dark waves until our boatman drove us back to shore.
This rainy season has undoubtedly been a tough one in Bangkok, which continues to be flooded. Reports say that people still celebrated Loi Krathong, albeit more carefully than usual. Hopefully all of this merit-making will appease the water goddesses and help bring better luck for this upcoming year. My wish for this year was that the floods won’t make their way down south! Happy 11/11/11, everyone!