Do This: Loy Krathong Festival

A festival at Wat Tampa pays homage to rivers with the launch of tiny lotus-shaped boats.

click to enlarge A small girl makes a wish before launching her krathong on the Palm River - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
A small girl makes a wish before launching her krathong on the Palm River

click to enlarge A small girl makes a wish before launching her krathong on the Palm River - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
A small girl makes a wish before launching her krathong on the Palm River
  • Kimberly DeFalco
  • A girl makes a wish before launching her krathong on the Palm River

Consider it a pre-emptive karmic cleanse.

Sandwiched in between the sugar-laden debauchery of Halloween and the gluttonous consumerism of Thanksgiving and Christmas, Loy Krathong’s premise is simple.

Water is life.

Its history mutated and propagated through time, Loy Krathong is a tradition of paying homage to rivers while sending your bad luck, bad attitude and any other emotional refuse to float away on a banana leaf with the river current.

No available river? No problem. Any body of water will do. Land-locked worshippers often resort to wading pools. It’s the thought that counts.

Celebrated since the 14th century, Loy Krathong festivals are held globally every year on the full moon of the 12th lunar month.

In Thailand, the festival is held for several days. Smaller-scale celebrations take place worldwide on Nov. 16 — and one will be held tonight at Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (Wat Tampa). With the full moon dancing over the Palm River, ethnic food, art and music will be offered from 7 p.m. through midnight on pristine acreage along the Palm River.

Believed to have been an ancient Brahmanic or Indic festival, Loy Krathong was first celebrated by India’s upper echelon of royalty, the wealthy and high-ranking officials.

Paying homage to the rivers, along with the gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, worshippers adorned their homes with lanterns.

The festival's origins vary by region. Some interpretations include paying respect to one’s ancestors.

An unofficial event in Siam (now Thailand) for hundreds of years, Loy Krathong was officially adopted by Buddhists in the 19th century to honor the Buddha’s teachings. They also wanted to honor Phra Mae Kongha, the Thai goddess of water.

Somewhere in between, legends formed. One of the most revered is that of the beautiful Nang Nopamas, a Siamese, royal lady-in-waiting.

Bowing to her creative side, Nang Nopamas is said to have created a boat in the form of a lotus flower, decorated it with carved fruit, flowers and incense.

With the tap of her finger, she then floated it on a river near the palace, catching the eye of Siam’s King Lithai.

Awed by the beauty of Nang Nopamas’ creation, the king declared the day a national holiday in honor of the Buddha.

Loy Krathong, sometimes spelled Loy Kratong or Loi Kratong, means “float a boat” or “floating boat." Activities includes a Miss Nopamas beauty pageant and a contest for the most beautiful boat.

Launching of the lotus-shaped krathongs is the focus of the celebration.

Adorned with flowers, candles and incense sticks, krathongs are launched by revelers after candles and incense are lit and a wish is made. Meditation is common.

If your krathong floats away from you, good luck is believed to be your silent partner.

Along Tampa’s Palm River, where hundreds of krathongs are launched during the festival at Wat Tampa, an occasional fireball erupts as the vessels form a karmic traffic jam.

Time to make another wish?

Despite the outcome of each vessel’s direction or fire-safety status, Loy Krathong is a peaceful celebration of one-ness among its participants.

click to enlarge Do This: Loy Krathong Festival - Bill Grable
Bill Grable
Do This: Loy Krathong Festival
  • Bill Grable

Krathongs will be available for purchase for a minimal fee during Wat Tampa's festival.

Current weather forecasts predict a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday. Many of the events are held indoors and visitors are invited to visit the Temple, a familiar sight to anyone who's been to Wat Tampa's Sunday morning market and Thai buffet.

An umbrella or rain jacket and lighter are recommended. Elongated barbecue lighters prove popular. Parking is plentiful.

In addition to the launching of the krathongs, traditional Thai dancing, local Thai band “Song Funghong” will provide entertainment.

So grab a banana leaf, make a vessel and a wish and float your bad karma away.

Loy Krathong Festival 7 p.m.-midnight
Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida
5306 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619
(813) 621-1669

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