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  • Writer's pictureCody Easterbrook

Floating Lanterns with Friends

On Memorial Day in Hawai'i we send flickering candles in lanterns floating off into the sunset as an offerings of remembrance of our loved ones we've lost.

If Honolulu is a home, then Ala Moana beach park is the living room of that home. It's where the family gathers for fun, festivities and other special activities. The annual Lantern Floating is one such occasion that brings our island-wide 'ohana or family together for a very special event.  

Memorial Day in Hawai'i Nei

Memorial Day in America is when people remember and honor those who have fallen in service to their country. In Hawai‘i, with our diverse population, traditions become easily adopted and assimilated into a rich cultural fabric. Here, it's become the norm that on Memorial Day we send flickering candles in lanterns floating off into the sunset as an offerings of remembrance of our loved ones who served their country as well as those who have passed away.

Pot luck and Lanterns

I look forward to the lantern floating every year, along with thousands of others. This year we shared a pot luck among friends and made our way down to Ala Moana beach park. There are always thousands gathered but somehow we maneuver through the throng and wait at the edge of the calm shore break to take in the solemn ceremony. There is oli, or Hawaiian chant, wistful Hawaiian songs are heard, there's drumming, Buddhist chants and chorals are sung. Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priestess of Shinnyo-en, officiates the event and offers a blessing over the ceremony, over all who are being remembered, and all in attendance.

Those We've Loved and Lost

As the sun begins to dip below the horizon and the coral sky fades to blue, Her Holiness calls for focused thoughts and prayers and rings her bell, signifying that it is time to float the lanterns. Quietly and peacefully thousands take their turn placing their lanterns onto the water with wishes of peace and happiness for loved ones they've lost. The mood is somber, tears are seen streaming down one another's faces. But the sight of thousands of glowing lanterns floating brings a feeling of hope, harmony and peace among all present. It's so edifying to experience and one can't witness this without your thoughts drifting to those you've personally loved and lost. Their memory shines on in the lanterns that unite us. 

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