Wednesday was a very auspicious day here in Thailand. Every year on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar (this year, November 28th), the entire country of Thailand participates in an event known as Loy Krathong. Loy means ‘to float’ and a krathong is a handmade lotus-shaped decoration made from folded banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks and topped with a single candle. The candle symbolizes and venerates the Buddha’s light. The Krathong’s floating away is symbolic of one’s letting go of all the negative thoughts, emotions and impurities they have harbored within themselves. Traditionally, Khom Loy, or fire-lit paper lanterns, are also released into the sky before Loy Krathong on Yi Peng or on the same night as Loy Krathong. Chonburi is a seaside city, so on Wednesday night most of the community flocked to the shore to release their krathongs and khom loys from the pier. Both the sea and the sky were dense with the visible weightlessness of past burdens set free. The krathongs were so perfect I was tempted to save one. I was not ready to part ways with these beautiful creations, but was forced to accept their ephemeral nature. They were not made to be enjoyed; they were made to be set free. As we release our newly made krathongs, we release old thoughts, old problems, old ways. We shed a layer of our skin, discard rusted aspects of our personalities. With the moon, we wax, and catalyze a new phase of our lives. The night was alive with symbols of hope, resolution, new beginnings. A collective decision to let go and a commitment to becoming better people. The effect was a breaking of chains, a portal to self-liberation.
At school we were dressed head-to-toe in a traditional Thai ensemble, complete with bold makeup, white lace, satin sash, and a headpiece of imitation pearls. After school, all of us revamped English teachers joined hundreds of other festively dressed Thais in a parade around Chonburi. At night, I kept the company of Rachel (my roommate and fellow English teacher), K and Yuey (two Thai teachers and new friends). After a celebratory dinner buffet, we were joined by K’s cousin Odee and were toted to the festivities on the back of his and Yuey’s motorbikes. As we approach the pier, the sight of the Khom Loys in the sky–a sign of freedom in the air–moves me and sticks with me. We released two white lanterns together as a group and decided to each buy our own krathong. We fled from the masses of people at the sea, and opted to send our krathongs down a quiet mote surrounding the local temple and to pay our respects to Buddha. K taught us the Buddhist traditions and the significance of the rituals performed in the temple. Together with K, Yuey and Odee, we slipped off our shoes, walked up the steps, and bowed our heads in meditation, our hands at heart center. We each took one bulbous bud of a white lotus flower, three sticks of incense, and a small sheet of a golden square and, with the locals, laid them at the feet of the Buddha.