I celebrated the Loi Gratong Festival with my students on Sunday. Loi Gratong is a special day during which Thai people apologize to the water goddess for polluting the water. After they apologize, they also make a wish. Then they place their gratongs (floaty things made of banana leaves with candles, incense, & flowers on them) in the water. If the water goddess accepts someone’s gratong by sucking it under water, their wish will come true.
Loi Gratong is a romantic day in Thailand. Couples usually go to the festival together. If they put a gratong in the water together, they will meet and fall in love in the next life. However, if they put one into the water together and it tips over, they will break up. So it seems like putting a gratong in the water with someone should be a pretty serious decision, but it isn’t. Many people will put gratongs in the water with whoever they happen to be dating when the festival comes around. This year, the engineering department was selling gratongs that came with dates. Girls who didn’t want to go to the festival alone could buy a gratong and go to the festival with one of the engineering students.
The Loi Gratong festival started in the afternoon with a parade. I went to the parade with some of my first year students. Many of the first year students were actually in the parade! They wore beautiful traditional costumes and they made some impressive props.
The students worked really hard in the days leading up to the festival. In addition to preparing for the parade, they were making gratongs to be sold at the festival. They say it usually takes an experienced person 1 hour to make a gratong. And they only sold them for 10 baht! That’s about 25 cents.
After the parade, I went to the festival with Jan & Ying (same students I went to the parade with). We walked around for awhile, rode on the ferris wheel, and played a couple of carnival games. Then we got some gratongs and put them in the water. The gratongs were really beautiful in the water. I was surprised to see boys wading through the waist-deep water through all of the gratongs. Many people leave money in gratongs, and they were collecting the money.
As we left the lake, we saw a couple of snake shows with really big scary-looking snakes. Then we went to see some traditional Thai dancing and a beauty contest. It seems like there’s a beauty contest for every holiday here!
To see pictures, click here. I don’t know all of the people in the pictures. Sometimes I just took pictures because I liked the costumes. Many of the people in the pictures are my students, however. The guys peddling the saamlaw, or rickshaw, in the parade are my students. It looked like they were working really hard! There are also a couple of “floats” that look like tanks. Those were made to celebrate the recent revolution.