Family fun Thai-style: DIY Krathong guide

Originally posted on The Passage Samui Resort‘s blog here.

The ancient festival of Loy Krathong is an important celebration in the Thai Buddhist calendar. It usually 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, and this year it will be celebrated on November 28th.

Our completed Krathong

Loy in Thai language means ‘to float,’ while the krathong is the lotus-shaped container which is filled with offerings to the water spirits which is believed to bring good luck on the person floating the krathong.

The candle on the raft is an act of veneration to Buddha. Floating away the raft is symbolic of letting go of all one’s anger and negative traits, so that one can start life anew with a more positive outlook. Some people cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft to reinforce this symbology of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a raft will bring good luck, and they do it to honour and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha (Thai: พระแม่คงคา).

Originally, the krathong was made from banana leaves with the layers of the trunk of a banana tree as a base.  Modern krathongs are also sometimes made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate in a few a days and be eaten by fish and other animals – this is a good thing as it is biodegradable – just like the traditional krathongs made from banana leaves. Unfortunately the same can not be said for the styrofoam varieties – so please steer clear of those you may see being sold in the market.

The Passage Samui as an environmentally friendly resort urges all ‘Loy Kratongers’ to build their own Krathong in the traditional, time honored fashion to ensure our rivers and canals stay clean and healthy for our children.

This guide will show you how to make your own Krathong in the traditional way – from banana leaves. It’s a lot of fun and will leave you with a deep sense of satisfaction when completed! Let’s begin building our Krathong!

Make your own krathong: what you need.

What you need

Here’s the list of items that we’ll need to make our beautiful little raft.

  • Banana leaf [or laurel leaves] (Cut into 20 rectangles)
  • Banana trunk [or bread/styrofoam] cut horizontally into a circular shape (forms the base of the raft)
  • Thin gauge wire
  • Marigolds or nice flowers (6-8 pieces)
  • Orchid flowers (9-18 pieces)
  • Cocktail sticks (for each flower)
  • Incense Sticks (3 pieces)
  • Candle
  • Small Office Stapler
  • Scissors

Overview:

  1. Preparation
  2. Build the Raft
  3. Decorate the Raft

Step 1

Staple 3 strips of banana leaf [or laurel leaves] around the banana trunk to make a base as shown below:

Banana trunk base

Banana trunk base

Step 2

Insert cocktail sticks through the centre of all flowers to enable them to be attached to our raft later.

Orchids with cocktail stick

Orchids with cocktail stick

Step 3

Cut banana leaf [or laurel leaves] into twenty strips that look like picture below:

Banana leaf cut (20 pieces)

Banana leaf cut (20 pieces)

Step 4

Now we will use these banana/laurel leaf strips to create 17 beautifully shaped mini leaves.
First fold the leaf as shown:

Banana Leaf Fold 1

Banana Leaf Fold 1

Step 5

Next fold the other side together to make a point as shown:

Banana Leaf Fold 2

Banana Leaf Fold 2

Step 6

Then fold the lower half around to make a curved leaf shape

Banana leaf fold 3

Banana leaf fold 3

Step 7

Secure left half in place with a staple on the left side.

Banana leaf staple 1

Banana leaf staple 1

Step 8

Secure right half in place with a staple on the right side.

Banana Leaf Staple 2

Banana Leaf Staple 2

Step 9

Tidy up the excess with scissors

Tidy the excess around the bottom of the leaf

Tidy the excess around the bottom of the leaf

Step 10

The final leaf should look something like this:

Final leaf ready for decorating!

Final leaf ready for decorating!

Now repeat the above steps from 4-10 until we have 17 leaves as shown above then your preparation is  complete and we are ready to build our raft.

Building the raft

Banana base plus leaves plus wire

Banana base plus leaves plus wire

Step 1: Start attaching your leaves around the edges of the base to make a star shape. On one side of the base create a small basket as shown below:

Attach leaves to the base with wire

Attach leaves to the base with wire

Step 2: Start attaching your leaves around the edges of the base to make a star shape. On one side of the base create a small basket as shown below:

Building the raft

Building the raft

Step 3: The finished raft should look something like this:

Completed basket

Completed basket

Now, our raft is complete, it’s time for the most fun part – decorating the raft!

Decorate The Raft

Step 1: Start attaching orchids around the edge of the raft – above each pointed leaf as shown:

Attach flowers

Attach flowers

Step 2: Using the cocktail stick attached to the candle fix the candle in the centre of the base, add the incense sticks close to the candle and finally surround the two with marigold flowers, using the cocktail sticks to attach them.

Attach candle, incense sticks and marigolds inside the basket

Attach candle, incense sticks and marigolds inside the basket

Step 3: If you’re tired, you could stop here – it’s quite pretty looking.

Almost completed Krathong

Almost completed Krathong

Step 4: But we are not settling for ‘just good enough’ here at The Passage we want the ultimate krathong! So using the rest of your leaves to go around the edge of the base and add more flowers to leave you with the final krathong as shown in the photograph.

Our completed Krathong ready for floating

Our completed Krathong

Congratulations! You’ve made your first Krathong!

If you made it this far – congratulations – you’ve demonstrated great patience and hopefully made a thing of beauty! Now amaze your friends by showing them your handiwork… take a photograph and post it to your facebook (be sure to tag @THE PASSAGE SAMUI in the photo so we can see your awesome design.)

If you enjoyed this guide, please share it with your friends or just leave us a comment below on how you did. We’d love to hear your feedback! The traditional Thai technique to make Kratongs is now yours to share and you too can float your krathong together with your stresses and strains down the river and look forward to a happier life!

Ready for Loy Krathong

Ready for Loy Krathong