Lantern Floating Ceremony on Memorial Day

By Andy Beth Miller
Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

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 Lantern Floating Ceremony.

Visit the Lantern Floating Hawaii website to learn how to submit a remembrance, watch the live streaming online, or participate in other ways.

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

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

The ceremony itself celebrates honor and reverence for all life and specifically serves to pay homage to those veterans who so selflessly gave of their own lives so that we may enjoy the safety and freedoms of 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

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

Personal lanterns are offered free of charge on Memorial Day morning. 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.

Please see the Lantern Floating Hawaii website for details of when and how to submit your messages and for information about live streaming of the ceremony.

Lantern Floating Ceremony Parking

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.

And as for parking, free parking is available from 7:00 a.m.-11:59 p.m. at the Hawaii Convention Center, with a complimentary shuttle and special transport for the physically disabled also made available from the Hawaii Convention Center to Ala Moana Beach from 3:00-6:15 p.m. and then back to the Hawaii Convention Center after the ceremony through 9:30 p.m.

May you take time to pause in remembrance and gratitude for the peace we have, the true privilege of enjoying today. Aloha, and stay well.

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