Memorial Day Lanterns

At sunset on Memorial Day in Honolulu the tenth annual lantern floating ceremony will be held at the beach near Magic Island, not far from the center of Waikiki. The ceremony is held to honor the lives of those lost in war and to remember other “departed loved ones.”

Participants write the names of the deceased and their personal messages on paper lanterns, which are then set adrift onto the ocean. Each year more than 3,000 candle-lit lanterns are released into the sea.

While the ceremony is Buddhist in origin, Hawaii’s version reflects the Islands’ diverse collection of faiths and backgrounds. The ceremony I most recently attended featured everything from Hawaiian chant and hula to Japanese Taiko drumming, the Honolulu Symphony, and a German trumpeter.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, all the lanterns are collected from the ocean and recycled for use in the following years.

The event can be viewed on television or, in person, on one of the nearby beaches. Either way it is also a very moving experience.