The krathongs are made up of the cellulose trunk of banana trees. Making them is usually a family affair. These "boats", as they are nicknamed, are usually well decorated like a parade float and the person using it will have the intention of clearing away all bad luck and misfortune. The well decorated krathong is usually made of colorful flowers and banana leaves with room for candles and incense sticks. People usually place a few coins, nail clippings and some of their hair to represent them before launching it into the rivers, streams or oceans while making prayers as they watch it float away.
This act represents bad luck being taken away and new beginnings coming in. Coincidentally, the rice planting season begins after the fall festival and will later lead to the harvest being in mid April and that's when they have the water festival Songkran.
Many young couples tend to place special items in their krathong to have a successful marriage and better futures or even kids. As years have gone by the Thai people have become more creative in their efforts to gain better things in life. Tourist are more than happy to partake in the festival as it is such a unique sight to see all the rivers, canals and oceans of lit candle krathongs moving along. It's just a spectacle in itself and not to be missed if you are there on that November full moon in Thailand. It makes for a great reason to have a holiday.
So what is the Loy Krathong process like? Well, just before sunset people go to the beaches, rivers, etc and light their candles and incense after placing their items inside then as the sun almost sets and the full moon visible, they release their krathong. Tradition says, if it floats away from you then good luck is to follow for the new year ahead but if it floats back then things are not going to be as rosy or the year ahead is not as fortunate.
Usually in many places all over Thailand, the festival incorporates a beauty queen contest, after the release of the krathongs. This goes back to the legend of of Noppamas who is said to have created the first krathong. She is supposedly the consort of the Sukhothai king.
Coincidentally, and mostly in the northern area of Thailand, the festival of Yi Peng is also celebrated in the same full moon period. There is a massive display of lighted lanterns that fill the skies at night. These are massive balloon like laterns know as Khom lai or Khom fai and are made primarily of thin paper. The same belief of sending bad luck off and getting better luck for the future is in line with the method of the floating krathongs. Only these go up into the sky.
So with lighted floats in the ocean, rivers, lakes, etc, and massive balloons lighting the skies of Thailand; your luck could just change for the better. Only way to find out is to be there for Loy Krathong.