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Loy Krathong: Water is life

The Thai Department wants our St Andrews International School Bangkok community to appreciate the special significance that water holds in Thai society and enjoy our traditional celebrations of the water through our annual Loy Krathong assemblies, Krathong making, and Loy Krathong activities.

“Water” is essential for every human being. It is vitally associated with our daily activities, and we all need to drink enough water to function properly. Water even makes up 70% of the human body. Nevertheless, for Thai people, “water” offers another deeper layer of significance. 

Long before classifications of ‘country’ and ‘state’ could be applied, people living in the Suvarnabhumi region (Golden Land) of South East Asia, established their early civilisation through the growing of rice and other crops. Their lives, and therefore their society, was dependent on water. Without water from heaven above, their crops would die, and they would die too. They needed water for food, for cleaning, and for transportation and trade with neighbouring areas both near and far away. 

Consequently, Thai people and many other ethnic groups in South East Asia perceive water as something which brings ‘life and cleanliness’, and water itself has ever since become the symbol of ‘life, purity and vitality’. Water has also been used to symbolise ‘giving and kindness’, so after Thai people make merit, they traditionally pour water on the earth.

Water is also important to adherents of Buddhism. In the story of Buddha’s life, on the night before he received enlightenment, he was threatened by an evil king claiming that Buddha didn’t have the right to his seat. The Buddha pointed down to the earth to claim his right, and the Goddess of Earth in response brought forth torrents of water until this evil king was finally carried away by flood. If we look carefully at the symbolism within this story, we can see that water represents all the kindness and goodness that Buddha had accumulated during his many lives, and because of this, he was able to defeat all the evil thoughts within himself.

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For this reason and many others, Thai people give an especially high significance to water. They take the occasion to pay respect to the Goddess of Water when water levels are at their highest each year, typically around the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar. This also happens to be the time when the moon is the most beautiful, too. In addition, as Thai people cyclically harvest their rice crops around this time of the year, it is also a time for festivals and celebrations. 

On this full moon night, Thai people like to take a “Krathong”, a bowl-shaped object, usually made of leaves and decorated by flowers, to float (Loy) together with their loved ones on a nearby river, canal or pond. Many like to stick three incense sticks, representing the three gems of Buddhism (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangkha), and a candle into the base of the Krathong as Thai people tend to mix their Buddhist beliefs with ancient animistic beliefs. Then, they would hold up the Krathong to “wai” (to pay respect by bowing one’s head). For some Thais, this is to pay respect to Buddha, while for others, it is to ask for forgiveness from the Goddess of Water for polluting and misusing her all year round. In addition, wishes are made by many people to be rid of sorrows and misfortunes and to have a better life from now on.  Many fun local activities are organised to celebrate this occasion, such as long boat competitions, singing courting songs in the boats under the full moon, etc.

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The Thai Department wants our STA community to share this appreciation for water, and enjoy our traditional celebrations of the water through our annual Loy Krathong assemblies, Krathong making, and Loy Krathong activities. Our students have been working hard on preparing their performances to present to you, and we hope you will appreciate their efforts. 

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The STA community also uses this day as a ‘Thai Costume Day’ where everyone can come to school dressed in different types of costumes: Thai farmers, Thai noblemen and ladies, Hill Tribe Thais, Northern Thais, East-Northern (I-sarn) Thais, Southern Thais, or even Thais during King Chulalongkorn’s period. If you come to see our children’s performances during the assemblies, please join us by also wearing a Thai costume. We look forward to seeing you around on Loy Krathong Day. 

Thai Department
October 2020

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