May 30, 2017

I’ve always wanted to attend Lantern Floating Hawaii. Held every year on Memorial Day in Hawaii, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I wrote this post for work about the history of Lantern Floating Hawaii and its origins in Buddhist Japanese culture. n memory and gratitude of those who have passed away, we write messages on lanterns, light them, and place them in the ocean. During the Obon season in Japan, people place lanterns outside their homes to help guide their families’ spirits back to them. At the end of the season, they place the lanterns into the water to help usher the souls of their family to the other world.  In Hawaii, having this ceremony on Memorial Day enables people to remember veterans and all of their loved ones.

After learning about the deep spiritual significance of this ceremony, I knew this was the year I was going.

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There are a few people I wanted to write messages to, which made this ceremony even more important to me. I was never able to attend in the past, because Nick and I usually go away or have people come visit for Memorial Day. But this year, with Nick out to sea, it was important to for me to do something special for Memorial Day. Luckily, my friends here in Hawaii also wanted to go.

We got to the beach early in the afternoon to set up our spot. I heard that 50,000 people were expected to attend, so we got there early to get a parking spot. We set up our beach chairs and food and just enjoyed the beach.

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We were not expecting to get a lantern because we got there a little later than we wanted, but we ended up sitting right across from the tent where they were giving them out. We saw that they still had them when we got there, so we went across the street to get our lantern kit, write our messages, and put it together. After the ceremony, volunteers get the lanterns out of the water, take them apart, and save the floats for next year.

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After a few hours of hanging out on the beach, the ceremony began with the sound of the conch shell. There were prayers and Hawaiian chants.

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Then the collective lanterns came across the water. These lanterns held prayers for victims of war, natural disasters, disease.

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People from all different beliefs collectively lit a ceremonial candle. After that, Her Holiness Shinso Ito gave a blessing. It was difficult to hear, but eventually, volunteers came around and helped us light our lanterns, and we soon received the okay to begin putting our lanterns in the water. Since I was near the front I was one of the first people to do it.

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Although the ceremony has origins in Japanese culture, this ceremony welcomes people of all nationalities, beliefs, and religions. There were so many different people there, honoring veterans, family, and friends. It was extremely emotional to place my lantern in the water, but there was also a comfort and peace to be doing this with so many other people. You see all of the messages and you can also honor the people who the strangers next to you want to remember and thank. It truly felt like a community event, like for a few moments, nothing that differentiates us really mattered, because we were all focused on the same, important, spiritual thing.

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As the sky darkened, there were so many lanterns lighting up the water. We packed up our bags, wiped away a few tears, and headed home. Lantern Floating Hawaii-27 Lantern Floating Hawaii-26

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8 responses to “Lantern Floating Hawaii”

  1. Jen says:

    Wow what an absolutely amazing experience this must have been. I am so glad you were able to participate and be a part of it.

  2. Wow, that looks so amazing. If I am ever in Hawaii someday I would like to do this.

  3. WOW! What an experience! Those pictures are incredible.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I agree the Lantern Floating is emotional yet peaceful at the same time, especially if you’re floating a lantern in honor of someone. So glad you got to be a part of this!

  5. Audrey says:

    Your pictures gave me goosebumps. What a beautiful ceremony! I’m so glad you were able to fully be a part of it this year. Such a neat experience!

  6. This gives me chills! these pictures are so beautiful!

  7. Laura says:

    Wow, what an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Carly says:

    Soo stunning! What an amazing thing to experience, and I appreciated reading this and learning about the significance and meaning behind it.

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