Asia in general is known for it's vibrant festivals and Thailand is no exception. Amazing colorful events intimately tied to regional cultures, religious beliefs and historical traditions.
Two major celebrations in Thailand, approximately six months apart are Songkran and Loi Khratong. One I dearly love (Loi Khratong) and one that I dread when it is approaching (Songkran).
Dramatically opposed on the calendar, they are equally opposite in the experience. Two basic elements come into play--water & fire.
Songkran is in the Spring at the outset of the rainy season. It has come to global attention as "Asia's Water War" based on tourist hype. For up to sometimes a week, every time you step outside during daylight hours you risk getting soaked. That's the clue to why I'm not fond of this holiday.
However, in mid-November at the end of the rainy season comes Loi Khratong when farmers are giving thanks to the goddess of water. This you celebrate with fireworks and in the north with fire driven hot air rice paper balloons sent to heaven.
Water only comes in to the picture as the vehicle upon which to float your "Khratong" sending off all negativity of the past year hoping for a fresh new start. A "Khratong" is a small boat composed of banana leaves attached to a bamboo base to resemble a lotus blossom and then decorated with flowers. In the center one places a single candle and three joss sticks which you light just prior to floating.
Tahm Khratong, Loi Khratong
(Make a boat, Float a boat)
The festival lasts for three days and on the last two evenings there are parades, the final night being larger and more elaborate. Lavish floats, lovely Thai women carrying Khratongs, musicians featuring lots of drums and gongs, and various marching groups carrying banners and offerings.