Rewind: The Most Ironic Holiday in Thailand

On November 17, a few friends and I went out at night to celebrate Loi Krathong. This holiday is always on the night of the full moon during the 12th month, according to the Thai lunar calendar. A krathong (pronounced kra-tong) is a decorative floating basket made of leaves, bread, or styrofoam, and people put krathongs into bodies of water in order to thank the river for its service to them and to apologize to the river for not treating it well throughout the year. What makes this ironic, of course, is that people pollute the river with the krathongs themselves and their contents — usually incense and candles — in order to apologize for polluting the river. My Thai friends are very aware of this irony, and many tried to make more eco-friendly krathongs this year. (Some of my students explained that they use real banana leaves.) If we can pardon the irony for a moment, I must say that seeing hundreds of little floating candles in the ponds and rivers is really quite beautiful.

We went to the park nearest to my apartment, where I often run. I’d never seen it so packed! There were hundreds of families, couples, and groups of friends there to send their krathongs into the pond, and there were dozens of hawkers selling the krathongs. It cracked me up to see a little boy scooping up krathongs, dumping their contents into the water, and loading up a bag of newly emptied krathongs, which he’d refill and resell! Quite the business plan!

The scooper!

The scooper!

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