Christmas Krathong *
  Swimming in Bangkok with Dr. Li  
  Driving rice thresher with cousin Em  
  Ben's new shoes  


* "Christmas Krathong"

"Loy Krathong" is the Thai name for this kingdom's version of an ancient Hindu harvest festival. "Loy" means to float, and "krathongs" are votive offerings like the one in Benyapa's picture. Krathongs are traditionally made from banana tree parts and decorated with flowers, candles and incense. A krathong's base is normally a round slice of banana tree trunk, the crenellations are intricately folded sections of banana leaves, and the fasteners are slivers of bamboo. Short-lived and fully biodegradeable.

The idea is that following the rice harvest everyone should give thanks to the rivers, and also apologize to them for having bathed themselves and their buffalo in their waters all year. The festive ceremony involves floating these delicate, homemade krathongs, each bearing its owner's thanks and solicitations, adrift downstream after dark on the full moon in November. Imagine the river banks lined with rejoicing families watching masses of candlelit, flowery krathongs drifting in the moonlight. It's one of Thailand's lovliest festivals, especially in villages like ours where everyone is actively involved in the harvest.

Since we're usually here only in the summer planting season, we've missed Loy Krathong every year since Benyapa was one, and this December she was determined to participate, even though we'd missed the official date. So Ben and her friends spent Christmas afternoon making a dozen krathongs, and then set them loose on our mighty Nan River in the very dark, new-moon night of December 25.

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