Today (November 25) is one of the most important festivals in Thailand: Loy Krathong, or the lantern festival. Tonight, millions of people throughout Thailand will let small lantern boats sail into the river. It's one of the most beautiful festivals in the country, known for its joyful atmosphere and focus on relationships. Many families celebrate Loy Krathong together, while couples are supposed to let their boats sail together – if the boats stay close, it means a good year for love, but if they separate, bad luck lies ahead.
Historically, Loy Krathong dates back beyond the memory of any living Thai peoples. The festival was originally dedicated to the Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. Since Thais are Buddhists, the festival was changed in meaning to stay attractive to the local people, much like the Roman celebration of the coming of the sun was changed to Christmas. According to legend, the first Loy Krathong, which just means "lantern boat," set sail nearly 800 years ago during the Sukhothai period, which is the beginning of Thai history.
Today, many Thai people believe that the purpose of Loy Krathong is to worship the footprint of the Buddha at the Nammathanati River in India, one of the most revered places for Buddhists. Even though the Buddha was just a man, and told his followers to treat him like a man, many people act as if he were a god. For these people, Loy Krathong has religious importance. However, even for people who aren't religious, Loy Krathong is a powerful festival, one that brings the whole country together. I'll be volunteering at a local temple to sell lantern boats, and I'm very interested in seeing what happens.