When Here We Are, at Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all! I’m quite elated to report that I’ll be celebrating in full-on American fashion with an American Thanksgiving meal for dinner. A large group of us are heading to the beach town nearby because one of the restaurants there has managed to scrounge up all the necessities for us. Woohoo! Cheers to cranberries, stuffing, {Tofu}turkey, and pies.

If you’re wondering how we managed to find such a darling meal in Thailand of all places, you’re wondering well. Thanksgiving is absolutely not a Thai holiday (though you better believe I taught my students the art of “the hand turkey” today), so being able to find such a meal here is indeed odd. What’s not odd is Loi Krathong, which we celebrated two Sundays ago (on November 17). (Yes, I’m a bit late at posting about it. My apologies.) From the always resourceful site called Wikipedia, we learn that:

Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.

Loi means ‘to float’, while krathong refers to the (usually) lotus-shaped container which floats on the water. Krathong has no other meaning in Thai besides decorative floats, so Loi Krathong is very hard to translate, requiring a word describing what a Krathong looks like such as Floating Crown, Floating Boat, Floating Decoration. The traditional krathong are made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate after a few days and can be eaten by fish. Banana stalk krathong are also biodegradable, but styrofoam krathongs are sometimes banned, as they pollute the rivers and may take years to decompose. A krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so. The festival may originate from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits.

So, basically, Thailand celebrates by sending lotus-shaped containers filled with flowers, a coin, and a piece of hair out into the waterways. Depending on where you celebrate, there are also a number of thin paper lanterns lit on fire and sent floating into the air (think: Tangled).

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From what I understand, Loi Krathong is similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas in that all three holidays are, at their origins, religious holidays, but nowadays their religious meaning is often forgotten. So, while Loi Krathong may have originally been celebrated in order to thank the water spirits for their provision, it now seems to be celebrated either a) for the sheer beauty of sending fire into the water and sky and/or b) to confess one’s greed [hence the coin] and one’s vanity [hence the piece of hair]. I moseyed over to the neighboring beach town sometime after dinner on November 17 and found the celebration to be busy but not too busy (AKA not as hectic and stressful as, say, the Loi Krathong celebrations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai) and also beautiful. Witnessing Loi Krathong first-hand has definitely been a bucket list item of mine, so being able to check it off the list was wonderful. However, I also must say that there’s something intangibly beautiful about a yearly confession of one’s greed and vanity, a marked occurrence for this confession. (Kind of like how Thanksgiving is a marked occurrence dedicated to giving thanks.) I look forward attending next year! (That is, if I’m still living in Thailand. More about that at a later date.)

Next week Thailand will celebrate the king’s birthday (also known as Father’s Day here), and the following week Thailand will celebrate Constitution Day. Just a few weeks after that is our break for New Year’s. So, rest and relaxation will be plentiful in December, I believe. I’m thankful for that! 😉

Well, I’m off. Happy Day of Thanks! May your Thursday be full of all the best food, the strongest sense of joy and gratitude, and immense solace.

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