Quite a few people, Thais included, didn’t believe me when I said that I was going down to the city hall in Samut Prakan to take pictures of the Loy Krathong ceremony. “But, Loy Krathong isn’t until next month!”, they said. “Are you crazy?” The phrase “loy krathong” means to float a bowl shaped container. It is not a festival like Christmas which celebrates a particular event. You can actually float a krathong at any time of the year. The annual event I went to last night was called “Loy Krathong Jay” and is part of the ten day Vegetarian Festival that we are having in Thailand at the moment. The ceremony started at Rongjae, near Taiban Circle in Paknam, and then all the participants walked all the way down to the Chao Phraya River at the city hall. They were accompanied with musical instruments for their fifteen minute walk through the town. This wasn’t the main parade for the festival and so I waited at the city hall for them to arrive.
There was a steady drizzle of rain as everyone huddled together on mats, sheltered by a scattering of umbrellas. A table was set up with candles and a food offering for the ancestors. Five monks led the chanting. The idea behind this ceremony is to change your misfortune and to float away your bad luck on the krathongs. But, this ceremony was also held to transfer this merit to the dead souls in the water and on earth. Each krathong had incense sticks which were lit before it was floated on the water. One horse-shaped krathong was also set on fire which is a common thing in Chinese ceremonies to pass merit onto dead ancestors.
The whole ceremony was over within 15 minutes. After the last krathong had been floated on the water, everyone then set off for the walk back to the Chinese temple. We are now more than half way through the Vegetarian Festival. There are more ceremonies to make merit for ancestors. On the last day, Wednesday 8th October 2008, there will be a big parade through the town. I will be bringing you pictures of this parade next week. Now it is time for me to go down to Racha Market to buy some vegetarian food. I am actually surviving quite well on this vegan diet. I am pretty confident that I can make it for the full ten days.