Flowers play a very important role at Buddhist ceremonies and festivals throughout Thailand. Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country; over 90% of its inhabitants are Buddhist and their culture intertwines very closely with Budhhism and the King and royal family. Thailand is also very fond of festivals and ceremonies and Buddhism is a very festive religion.
Loy Krathong Flowers
Probably the best-known of these festivals is the Loy Kratong festival, which is held at the end of November or beginning of December. This is a very important time in the Thai calendar and Thai Muslims, Christians and even foreigners will join in this joyous celebration. Loy Kratong literally translates as ’float tray’ and this is exactly what the entire country does! The Kratong is a round tray, usually made from a cross-section of a banana trees, with banana leaves decorating the outside. This tray is ornately decorated with flowers, incense, candles, sometimes coins, a lock of hair or even nail clippings as well for good luck. Thai women will spend the whole day preparing their ‘Kratongs’ and then in the evening couples, families and individuals will head to the nearest body of water to float these trays. This is to honour Buddha and also to thank the Goddess of water, Mae Konghka.
As well as Kratongs, people will also launch beautiful floating candles that drift into the air and create a spectacular scene on this special evening. In bigger towns there will be fireworks, live music and sometimes huge music festivals. As with any Buddhist event, flowers and food will be abundant! It is a time for couples to celebrate their love, families to give thanks and individuals to ‘make merit’ or earn good luck. It can also be a time of reconciliation and forgiveness, and hence floating the Kratongs can be symbolic of washing away your sins and cleansing yourself for the year ahead, or washing away bad luck.
Often companies, governments or temples will create their own giant Kratongs and in some places you would be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of competition to see who can create the largest and most elaborate Kratong, covered in beautiful floral decorations and giving off clouds of incense smoke.
Teachers Day Thailand
Another important day full of flowers is Teacher’s Day, which comes in the middle of January. Teacher’s day is pretty straightforward – it is a day of appreciating teachers. Teachers are held in very high social status in Thailand and revered, almost like the monks, as important bearers of knowledge and givers of light. Usually, a few days before Teacher’s Day, there will be a ceremony known as Wai Kroo, which translates as ‘bow to your teacher’. Flowers play a very important part of this ceremony as students will buy flowers to offer to their teachers.
In fact this festival utilises four different types of flowers as offerings: The first is Ya Praik which is a sort of grass and symbolises perseverance, as the grass looks very weak and drooping when it is actually thriving. The next is Dok Makhue which is the eggplant flower and symbolises respect, as it looks similar to a student bowing down.
Then there’s Dok Kem, a pink flower which symbolises wisdom, and finally Khao Tok which is burst rice – this symbolises discipline as the rice popping in the pan is similar to a group of students working their way through class.
Another important day is the Queen’s Birthday, which is also the day Thais choose to celebrate Mother’s Day. This falls on the 12th of August every year and it is usual for children to give Jasmine flowers to their mothers to show appreciation, respect and thanks and also to ask for forgiveneness for all their wrong-doings!