Anatomy of a Celebration

[dropcap2]C[/dropcap2]elebrations are one of the universal human experiences. Across cultures and places, we live through life’s highs and lows. Though mourning is also universal, it’s the unique ways we express joy that captivates my attention as I travel. I’ve been on the road since 2008, and since this month’s theme is celebrate, I knew I wanted to share one of the most beautiful festivals I have been a part of over the years: Thailand’s Loy Krathong celebrations.

Loy Krathong falls at the end of Southeast Asia’s rainy season and it’s a time for giving thanks and for washing away negativity—something I think we can also use in our lives as we move from spring into summer over here in North America. But more than just the event itself, it’s the pieces of the experience that fascinates me, the symbols folded into the celebration that add meaning and tradition.

The making of krathongs is the most prominent part of the festival, and so the locals craft small, delicate rafts, then release them onto the river during the full moon. Like any good celebration, making the krathongs starts by gathering the freshest flowers in season.

My niece and I celebrated this holiday together during the year I homeschooled her from Southeast Asia. I loved watching the little artist in her come out as she meticulously modeled the artful nuances the locals used on their own krathongs, in this case by twisting delicate banana leaves into traditional patterns, then pinning them to the base.

We topped our krathongs off with the usual incense and candles, then added a fun flare of sparklers to make them represent the happiness we hoped to have in the New Year.

As evening settled, we took our krathongs to the riverside, imbued them with all the negativity in our lives as well as all our dreams and gratitude. Then we set them afloat to bob in the gentle current as they moved downriver. The ritual of making and releasing the krathongs was a hands-on way for me to help my niece let go of anything she might be hung up on; it was a journey we made together, alongside the Thais, to set intentions for our coming year.

And as the krathongs, along with all they represented, started their journey, thousands of paper lanterns patterned the sky like floating jellyfish—another symbol of releasing habits, angers, and ideas that no longer serve your life as a new season begins.

We all carry on traditions from past generations or develop new traditions in our lives that represent our own views. One of the gifts travel has given me over the years is the ability to witness the elements of celebrations that other cultures have manifested through centuries of practice. In looking to the elements of celebration I have found creative ways express joy and celebration in my own life.

This May we’re celebrating celebrations! We’ll also share tricks that busy working women like us use to throw memorable bashes with minimal effort.
Follow our Petit Parties and Entertaining Pinterest boards for ‘celebration inspiration’ all year long!