November 2, 2009… It’s that time of year again here in Thailand, with the celebration of the favored holiday, Loi Krathong.
(My apologies since I’m late in posting this, but Blogger.com had a glitch preventing me from uploading photos)
I’ve posted about Loi Krathong before, but thought I’d do it again simply since it’s a big deal to my wife Mam, who really gets into this stuff…being Thai and all.
Mam approached me at my computer desk yesterday afternoon and presented her Krathong for my approval. I always think they are a work of art, but she’s very critical of her work and really wants to know what I think, so I put on a show of looking at it for a long time with that “critical” look on my face as if I was really scrutinizing it carefully.
(I said at last, with an exasperated tone for effect)
“I think it is truly one of your best.”
Then I went on to explain why.
Well, she didn’t fall for it, since she remembered the one from last year, which she stated had much more detail, and according to her, was far superior to this year’s creation.
Ah well, I’m busted.
“Well, I really do love it!” I said. To which she added, “You always say that.”
So what was different this time?
This time I pulled her aside and asked her…
“Mam, I want to put something about Loi Krathong on my blog. Can you tell me simply, what Loi Krathong is all about?”
I wasn’t sure if this was a language issue, or she just didn’t get it, so I got more specific.
“If I do a search online for ‘Loi Krathong’ it comes up with about three hundred twenty-nine thousand, nine hundred and forty two possible websites that have something to do with the subject Loi Krathong andmost of it is just a complicated mish mash of Buddhist stuff that I don’t want to bother with posting on my blog.”
Can you simplify it?”
“Well, Loi Krathong about…you know…’Wai’ (hands held together in front of face in prayer gesture) for water. Uh, like pray to water for being good to us [sic].”
“Ah…okay. So it’s like you are praying…or giving homage (alms of a sort) to the water god or something like that.”
“Yes, but also to let go all bad things about you.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“You remember last year I clip your toenails, fingernails and clip hairs from your chest?”
“That for water god to take away bad things about you.”
“Oh, I get it. Like cleansing (cleaning) yourself of problems?”
“Yes, like that.”
“Ok. Thank you Mam. You’ve really helped.”
The thing here, dear readers, is my exact point. You can ask several Thai’s the same question and get many different answers. It means many different things to many different people. Like many ancient celebrations or events (regarding anything…hum…Christmas comes to mind…in any part of the world), things have gotten a bit distorted over the centuries.
So, I’ll leave it up to you to do some research on your own (if you so choose). For a start, you can go HERE to the Wikipedia site, which tends to be a bit confusing, but supposedly is fairly accurate.
Me? I’ve done the research, and have found that after you read one website that spouts on and on about Buddhist history (which is a tad confusing in and of itself), you’ll end up reading another that says absolutely nothing about the Buddhist religion and only touts extensive information about water worship, forgiveness, and letting go of deceit.
Like much of life, things just get watered down after a couple decades or so…
To many foreigners living or vacationing here in Thailand, it’s a fun time to enjoy learning how to make a Krathong, taking their Krathong on Loi Krathong day to a river or some body of water, making some sort of wish similar to the falling star thingy, lighting the candle and incense, and placing your Krathong in the water, watching as it sails away.
Naturally, this has been going on for a long, long time here in Thailand, but of late there has been a big push to fashion your Krathong out of some sort of organic material that won’t end up harming the environment.
The base of the Krathong is typically made of a sliced section of banana trunk. Then you just build upon that, wrapping it in banana leaf an adding folded sections of leaf for effect, kinda like how they fold napkins in fancy hotels. Many things are used to hold everything together, but Mam usually uses either the thorns off our sour orange tree, or toothpicks. Add some flowers, a couple candles, some incense sticks and you’re good to go!
Once your Krathong is in the water and your wishes are headed toward the God of Water, if you take a little jaunt down stream a bit, you’ll undoubtedly see a large group of Thai kids who have formed some sort of dam in the river and are rummaging through the Krathong, looking for money and the like. Many people place coins or paper money on their Krathong as part of the “offering,” however this practice appears to be waning lately, probably because people don’t want to contribute to some kid’s candy money.
After the floating off of your Krathong, it is then unofficially part of the celebration to proceed in drinking loads of beer, shooting off massive amounts of fireworks, eating hoards of Thai food, and ending up at some party singing Karaoke until the wee hours of the morning.
I wonder…How much of that stuff occurred centuries ago?
Probably a lot is my guess.
Every year, my classes are skimpy after Loi Krathong since many of the kids who do show up are brain dead the next day since they stayed awake all night listening to their parents drunkenly sing to some Karaoke teleprompter.
Thailand Scenario #1: Boy and Parn get into a fistfight after school. - Crowd gathers. Parn wins the fight. Boy and Parn shake hands and end up buddies.
America Scenario #1: Joe and Oscar get into a fistfight after school. - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Joe and Oscar… Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Joe started it. Thailand Scenario #2: Pornwat won’t be still in class, disrupts other students. Pornwat sent to office and given a good caning by the Principal… Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
America Scenario #2: Peter won't be still in class, disrupts other students. Peter given HUGE doses of Ritalin… Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADHD. School gets extra money from state because Peter has a disability.
Thailand Scenario #3: Onwat breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and Khun Pa gives him a whipping with his belt. - Onwat is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
America Scenario #3: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt. - Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse… Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang… State psychologist tells Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison… Billy’s Mom has affair with psychologist.
Thailand Scenario #4: Alita gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school. - Alita shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
America Scenario #4:Josh gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school. - Police called, Josh expelled from school for drug violations… Car searched for drugs and weapons.
Thailand Scenario #5: Rahib fails high school English. - Rahib goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.
America Scenario #5: Pedro fails high school English. - Pedro’s cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro’s English teacher… English banned from core curriculum… Pedro given diploma anyway… but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.
Thailand Scenario #6:Sarochai takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Songkran festival, puts them in a discarded Singha beer bottle and blows up a fire ant leaf nest. - Ants die.
America Scenario #6: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed. - ATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents and Johnny's siblings are removed from the home… computers confiscated. Johnny’s Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again. Thailand Scenario #7: Banwat falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Jahrut… Jahrut hugs him to comfort him. - In a short time, Banwat feels better and goes on playing.
America Scenario #7:Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary… Mary hugs him to comfort him. - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison… Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.