A genuine spectacle, Loy Krathong occurs on the night of the full moon in November. People go to rivers and canals to float Kratongs a small floats made of cork and banana leaves to thank the rivers for their bounty and support throughout the year, and as a means of making merit and gaining good luck.
Loy Krathong is often claimed to have begun in the Sukhothai by a court lady named Nopphamat. However, it is now known that the Nopphamat tale comes from a poem written in the early Bangkok period. According to H.M. King Rama IV, writing in 1863, it was a Brahmanical festival that was adapted by Thai Buddhists in Thailand to honor Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometime cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts. Many ordinary Thai use the krathong to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.
The beauty contests that accompany the festival are known as “Nopphamat Queen Contests”. According to legend, Nang Nopphamat (Thai: นางนพมาศ; alternatively spelled as “Noppamas” or “Nopamas”) was a consort of the 13th century Sukhothai king Sri Indraditya (who is also known as Phra Ruang) and she had been the first to float a decorated raft.
However, this is a new story which was invented during the first part of the 19th century. There is no evidence that a Nang Nopphamat ever existed. Instead, it is a matter of fact that a woman of this name was the leading character of a novel released at the end of the reign of King Rama III, around 1850 CE. Her character was written as guidance for all women who wished to become civil servants.