Instead of Bonfire night or Christmas day, Thailand has Loy Krathong.
It’s a lunar festival celebrated annually on the night of the full moon (in the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, according to Wikipedia). I suppose you’d call it a water festival. People buy make these beautiful boats of folded flowers and banana leaves, stick a coin or note on it, light the candle and incense nested in the centre and float the whole shebang off into water with a prayer.
The government complex at the end of our road has a little lakelet so we wandered over to see what was going on. EVERYTHING was going on: market stalls, lights, music, a big, precarious carousel and an enormous old projector showing madcap Thai drama. People were everywhere and there were krathongs a-plenty.
Floating a krathong has a little, quiet slice of reverence that comes with it. You get the candle lit and the incense burning and wait your turn to step carefully to the edge of the water. You place your krathong in the shallows, gently, and give it a gentle push. You watch the breeze mess with the candle flame as it glides and dips. Then you watch it float away. There’s a moment of contemplation there, if you let it in.
But then it’s back to real life. Loud and raucous. TV camera out documenting the event. Food stalls everywhere. Clothes. Traditional Thai dress, dancing and – of course! – the old Loy Krathong song! Nothing like it.