One thing, among so many, that truly sets Hawaii apart is the Aloha State’s reverence for all things — and people.
There are many official observances and traditions among the islands that reveal this beautiful mindset, but perhaps among the most well-known would be the annual Lantern Floating Ceremony.
Held annually on Memorial Day, this unique ceremony attracts both visitors and residents alike in order to honor those who have given their lives in service to their country. Throughout this special day, a myriad of both Oahu and neighbor island public and private services are conducted in honor of our veterans. And then, before sunset on Oahu, more than 40,000 participants gather each year at Ala Moana Beach Park to send off floating lanterns.
These specially crafted floating lanterns — inscribed by hand with prayers and personal messages upon special paper that is affixed to each — are, after a beautiful ceremony of remembrance, launched lovingly into the water as a touching show of symbolism.
The ceremony itself celebrates honor and reverence for all life and specifically serves to pay homage to those veterans who selflessly gave their lives so that we may enjoy the safety and freedoms we know today. Opened with the sounding of the iconic Hawaiian shell trumpet, or kani pū, followed by Japanese taiko, the ceremony then involves a chant, or oli, which calls in six large Parent Lanterns offering prayers and gratitude. And so on, this wave pattern continues.
This patient, repetitive pattern is the epitome of local Hawaiian culture, showcasing how protocol, and a code of etiquette, is also revered and honored here. And although following such a prescribed protocol may mean things move more slowly — even appearing redundant — the purpose behind these practices is honor. Similar protocol may be seen in the Hawaiian hula, in the presenting of lei and flowers, in blessings and even in the simple, still pause of bell ringing.
Now that you understand the profound meaning behind the ceremony, this year, as Honolulu residents gather to pause, to honor and to remember those who have passed and to celebrate the amazing opportunity we have to be at peace with those around us, we — through the connective and unifying spirit of Aloha — invite you to also participate.
You Can Participate In-person or Online
Personal lanterns are offered for pickup free of charge on Memorial Day at Ala Moana Park, or the week leading up to the event (reservations are necessary).
You are invited to write your own special prayers and messages of remembrance on the paper provided and then float your lantern in the ceremony at sunset. You may also visit the Shinnyo-en Hawaii temple ahead of time to have your messages included on the Collective Remembrance Lantern.
If you are not in Hawaii, you may still participate! Simply submit your prayers and messages online to be included on the Collective Remembrance Lantern as well.