Saturday, November 10th, students and families around IU gathered at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures to learn about the Siamese festival, Loy Krathong, celebrated annually throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. The name of the festival literally means “to float a basket” and refers to the floating baskets that are traditionally released on the night of the festival. In accordance with this tradition, participants were invited to create their own floating basket under the instruction of Thai Langauge Instructor, Wannasin Yaowalee.
Although the baskets are traditionally woven from fresh flowers and banana leaves, participants in Saturday’s event used colorful squares of paper to construct a simple lotus flower. The end design (equipped with a small LED light in place of the traditional candle) was meant to capture the essence of the festival’s tradition while still being accessible to the small children and families present. “In Thailand, I can use the leaves from the banana trees around my hometown,” explains Wannasin, “but it was a little difficult to find banana leaves in Indiana so today we are using paper instead”.
The lotus flower is a very important symbol in Thailand, where the majority of people practice Buddhism. The flower is frequently presented as an offering to Buddhist statues and temples, accompanied by three incense sticks and a candle. During LoyKrathong, many baskets will imitate this same design in hopes of attracting good fortune.
While the paper design itself was fairly simple, children soon enlisted their parents to help complete the flower that required 12 squares of paper in total. “It’s nice to have an activity where children and parents can work on a project with one another” said Sarah Hatcher, program coordinator for the Mathers Museum, who oversaw Saturday’s event. And as Wannasin observed, “bringing people together is what the festival is all about”.
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