The largest Memorial Day observance in the country, Lantern Floating Hawaii 2015, is free to the public. Attended by people from all over the world, the ceremony highlights 6,000 lanterns floating on the waters of Ala Moana Beach on O’ahu’s south shore.
The actual ceremony begins at dusk with the sounding of the conch shell to the North, East, South and West. The head priest of the Shinnyo Buddhist community, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, officiates at the non-denominational ceremony. Taiko drums, hula dances and spiritual rituals add to the drama. The head priest performs a ceremonial lighting of the Light of Harmony preceding the mass lighting of the floating lanterns She explains, ”The light of the lanterns we see before us connects us with our loved ones who came before us. The act of floating lanterns symbolizes our intention to put our thoughts into actions. The light of the lantern symbolizes wisdom; water is a symbol of compassion.”
Would you like to personally float a lantern? Bearing in mind the number is limited to 6,000, arrive early on the day of the event between 10 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the Lantern Request Tent. Many names of loved ones and messages can be carried on a single lantern. Sharing one lantern per family adds to the meaningfulness of the experience. More than 50,000 participants will set afloat the candle-lit lanterns, illuminating the ocean shores in remembrance of loved ones. Themed “Many Rivers, One Ocean,” the ceremony gives an opportunity for prayers from around the globe in a gesture of harmony and international friendship. This year is especially significant because prayers will be offered for the thousands of lives lost in Nepal due to the recent earthquake and aftershocks.
The ceremony culminates with the placing of the lighted lanterns upon the water with wishes for the peace and happiness of loved ones past while unveiling courage and hope in the hearts of those present. Volunteers retrieve the lanterns from the ocean following the ceremony and they are preserved for use again.
The first festival was held in 1999 and has grown each year in response to community demand. A national holiday, Memorial Day commemorates those who have fallen in service to America. Hawaiian’s too place flowers and offerings on grave sites of those who served and also include others who have passed away. The Lantern Floating Hawai’i ceremony creates an environment of personal and collective remembrance, reflection and gratitude to those who have gone before us.
The ceremony will be broadcast live on Hawai’i News Now KGMB from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. For those unable to attend, it will also stream live on the website, www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com. Volunteers are welcome both on the day of the ceremony and in June for cleanup. Each step is carefully done with reverence for those being remembered. To volunteer, email to email@example.com. While there is no cost to attend, place a remembrance on a lantern, or float a lantern, voluntary donations go toward supporting the ceremony. Donations made after the event are gifted to the City & County of Honolulu for the maintenance and beautification of Ala Moana Beach Park.
View more of Lee’s local and international travel articles here. Lee is the editor and creator of Epicurean Destinations for more on travel, food and wine.