In the past year I began making a bucket list. A friend asked me why (on Earth!) I hadn't already made one, and encouraged me to come up with a few things. Well, after a little while the list grew, and at this point I feel that I have a pretty hefty set of goals ahead of me. I have only been able to cross a few things off, but each one has been an accomplishment or something I will never forget. For example: Loy Krathong.

To be honest, I didn't know it was called Loy Krathong. I had no clue that this happened in Thailand, actually. Yes. I will admit it. I watched Tangled and was smitten with the pretty lights and knew I wanted to do something like it or at least watch. Low and behold, I move to the city with the grandest celebrations of this beautiful lantern festival.

On the full moon day of the 12th month (according to the Thai lunar calendar), Thais float a krathong (a lotus-ish-shaped boat) down the river or pond to pay respect to Buddha, and to seek forgiveness from the goddess of water for any misdeeds against her. Several Thais today send the floats as wishes or to bring good luck. Loy Krathong coincides with another Northern Thai festival called Yi Peng, where thousands of sky lanterns are launched into the air in hopes of earning merit to repay karma. These two traditions are celebrated together at Loy Krathong festivals in Southeast Asia.

Our home here is close to one of the best spots to see and send off these lanterns. We walked about two miles to get to the Iron Bridge, where we were able to see hundreds of folks getting ready to set off their lights. I also discovered (I'd heard it before) that Thais love fireworks. I feel like I musta jumped outta my skin at least twenty times because someone standing right next to me set off a firework. The bridge was crawling with tourists, locals, vendors, you name it. Nonetheless, cars were still crossing, hot on the heels of those eager to get out of the way. We'd been hearing fireworks near our house for days, but this is a whole other story. In the video below you can see one of the displays at the bridge, which is the closest to a display like this I've ever been. Ash in my hair, the camera is pointed directly skyward we were so close. We are still hearing fireworks in our neighbor's backyard two days later, and those aren't just little sparklers.

On the way back to our place, we stopped at a smaller celebration near one of the army bases. There were crepes and smoothies to be had, but what really caught my attention were the groups of people kneeling and offering gifts of incense and prayer to Buddha, another way to earn merit. It's interesting to see something so beautiful as this festival and the intricacies of Buddhist tradition celebrated so fervently, when the purpose of it all is so empty. On the other hand, it's obvious to me that the lanterns and beautiful displays of light are perfect examples of the Lord's beauty in the midst of all the world's dark. 

This festival was not the largest group of lanterns sent up. A couple weekends before was a festival where thousands of lanterns were sent off at once. I can't begin to imagine how that looked, whether you were on the ground with the launchers or watching from farther off. Well, there's always next year.

Checking this off the list. What a beautiful way to open the portion of the year where most of the world opens their hearts, their eyes and their mouths to be thankful (It doesn't help that I'm listening to Christmas music at the moment). Praising the Lord for his incredible gifts, impeccable timing and indescribable grace.