Our brains are wired so that we each see the world through our own unique lenses. We gravitate to a worldview that is based on our personal experiences; it’s all about the familiar and the comfortable. So it’s completely natural that most Americans were consumed by Thanksgiving and Black Friday last week. But in concentrating on these events, many of us missed an awesome celebration in Thailand — falling between the 21st and 23rd this year. (Dates for the festival vary because it takes place on the night of the full moon in the twelfth month of the classic Thai lunar calendar.)
Second to only the Thai New Year’s festival of Songkran in popularity, Loi Krathong is a Siamese fest celebrated by people throughout both Thailand and neighboring countries, with a heavy southwestern Thai influence. The name roughly translates to “to float in a basket,” which references the tradition of making gorgeously decorated baskets and floating them down a river.
The baskets, called krathongs, are traditionally made from a buoyant slice of banana tree trunk, though spider lily plants, bread, and even the environmentally heinous Styrofoam may be used. Intricately folded banana leaves are used to festoon the baskets, which hold three incense sticks and a candle. Though, sometimes, people also slide in a small coin to appease the river spirits. On the night of the full moon, everyone finds water, makes a wish, and launches their basket.
Photographer Julianne D. Parker was in Chang Mai for the festival to take photos.
“What was most spectacular was the steady stream of light for hours into the night,” she says. “Each lantern floating above or basket floating down the river represents something different to different people. So the vastness of the festival is, in a way, a reflection of our shared desires as humans.” She laughs. “That sounds a little too earnest. It also just looked really cool.”
Take a peek at Julianne’s photos below (interspersed with some Instagram images) and consider blowing off the family, the turkey, and the football next year and widening your lens by spending part of November in Thailand.