Hawaii Lantern Floating Ceremony Memorial Day
Theme: Many Rivers, One Ocean
Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 2014
This may have been one of the most spiritually moving events in my life that I had been a part of, at this scale and level. There were so many people there dealing with their own personal loss, but yet, united together in that we all suffered losing someone close to us. The beauty in it all, was watching as the lanterns floated out to sea - each one representing a loss or in our case, several losses to each lantern.
Come with me, and I'll take you on a journey in Hawaii to experience the 2014 Lantern Floating Ceremony. You'll learn how to maneuver through the Hawaiian Lantern Ceremony, and my tips for your best approach for a successful event next year.
In this article, you'll discover:
- The Lantern Floating Hawaiian History and Humble Beginnings
- How to Participate if Unable to Attend
- Time Line of Events for the Lantern Floating Ceremony
- What to Expect During the Lantern Floating Event
- My Tips for Attendees to the Lantern Floating Event 2015
The Lantern Floating Ceremony History and Humble Beginnings
The first Lantern Floating Ceremony was held back in 1999 on Memorial Day at Keehi Lagoon and was still officiated by the Head Priest Shinso Ito of Shinnyo-en. Three years later, the event was moved further South to it's present location at Ala Moana Beach.
Through the years, the event has slowly increased in attendance, to where it has exploded into the over 40,000 people and 6000 floating lanterns.
But the Lantern ceremony is not new to Hawaii, and has been a part of several community Hongwanji Bon Dances usually held during the summer months of July. The Hongwanji Jodo Mission in Haleiwa sits right on the North Shore of Oahu, at the end of Ali'i Beach. Part of the festivities during the Bon Dance is the Floating Lantern ceremony. Being on the beach makes it ideal for the Jodo Mission to launch their lanterns. This tradition has been going on for many, many years - I remember attending the Jodo Missions Bon Dance during the 1970s, but I'm sure that the tradition has been going on for much longer than that.
The events are often filled with entertainment, dancing and good food that visitors from all over the world can participate in, and part-take of. Everyone is encouraged to join in on the festivities, and the dance is easy enough to learn. You don't have to worry about standing out, because if you've ever attended a Bon Dance, you know that there is always someone else that dances much worse than yourself.
If you've never attended a Bon Dance, get in touch with your local Hongwanji. Find out when it's held, and attend for a night of fun. Now, it's true that you may be in an area where there will be no Japanese Hongwanji, well, you're really being short changed from the experience of witnessing a Bon Dance celebration. But, rest assured, you can always come to Hawaii and attend a Bon Dance at any Hongwanji
Poll and Pulse
Have you ever attended the Hawaii Floating Lantern Event?
caption: The Haleiwa Hongwanji Jodo Mission Haleiwa Bon Dance
10am Lantern Pick-up; In-Line to Design
How to Participate if Unable to Attend
If here in Oahu, Hawaii and you are unable to attend the event, or unable to enter the water you can stop by the Shinnyo-en Hawaii temple for a limited and specific time period to hand write your remembrances. The special paper used for the floating lantern ceremony will be the only paper used, so don't expect to use your own paper.
Shinnyo-en Hawaii Temple
2348 S Beretania St, Honolulu(808) 947-2814
If you are far away and would still like to participate in the ceremony, you can submit your remembrances to:
Both submissions on-line and those turned in at the temple will be placed on Collective Remembrance Lanterns and floated out to sea by volunteers. A lot of these Collective Lanterns are much bigger, and afford a higher amount of names of loved ones. They are one of the first to hit the water, and the volunteers handle these with the utmost reverence and care.
The volunteers for this event started back in March to assemble and put together these nifty but simple floating lanterns. The initial technology of the floating lantern is simple, straight forward, and sound.
I must add that 'all' the volunteers that were associated with this event were very, very nice and always appeared cheerful and helpful. If you would like to help out and volunteer your time for this event see the link below.
I was very thankful for the volunteers that helped out from start to finish, and that it was handled so professionally. Nice job Shinnyo-en Hawaii.
Ala Moana Beach Park Where the Floating Lantern Event Will Take Place
Taiko Drums; Always gets the energy going...
Timeline of Events for the Lantern Floating Ceremony
Pick-up Lanterns to write your remembrances; Limited amount so pick-up ASAP
Lantern Floating Tent located at Ala Moana.
7am - Midnight
Free parking available
Hawaii Convention Center
Free shuttle begins
From Convention Center to Magic Island lot
Lantern Floating Festivities begin
Ala Moana Beach
High Priest Shinso Ito's Ringing of the Bell
The bell signifies to start floating the lanterns
Free Shuttle begins
Magic Island lot where you were dropped off
What to Expect During the Lantern Floating Event
Because of the density of the area where the event is held, there are no advantages to utilizing the shuttle buses unless you leave the event before it is officially over. Although the volunteers are awesome in their service and care of getting you there, having volunteers to show you where to wait, and to answer your questions and concerns, the shuttles are halted in traffic just like everyone else trying to leave the event. This only exacerbates the problem because the shuttle not only have to leave the area, but they need to come back through it.
We misses the first bus after the event was completed, and waited more than an hour and half for the shuttle to return. By then, our line which was more 200 people, dwindled down to just 40.
Taiko drumming at the event and the Makaha Sons of Niihau with Del Beasley was an awesome treat. When the Makaha Sons of Niihau sang "I'll remember you" written by Kui Lee and made famous by Don Ho. It was the perfect song for such an event, and it brought tears to my eyes as we sang along.
The High Priest Shinzo Ito spoke in her native Japanese and was translated into English. Dignitaries and other community officials assisted the High Priest in lighting the ceremonial flame and soon came the awaited ringing of the bell by the High Priest.
Lines were already forming for the waterfront, but not to worry, everyone parted ways to make room for those that still needed to release their lanterns. Aside from a few of the people out there that were there just to take pictures and not participate in the event at all, most of the people made room for you, and gave you space to say your goodbyes. We took about 10 minutes for our group to release two lanterns. We took pictures, said our good byes, shed tears, and then made way for those that waited very, very patiently for us to finish.
I should say that you should expect to enter the water up to your chest due to the push past the photographers and others that have already released lanterns and are taking pictures to show their family and friends.
During this area, there are a lot of tears being shed, and just the sheer sorrow and symbolic release of sadness hangs very heavy in the air. Upon releasing my lantern filled with words for my Father and two older brothers, I wept openly. I couldn't control the emotions that surfaced and looking around and seeing others that were struggling through their own loss, my vision blurred as I let my wife lead me back to the shore through countless others that were holding their own remembrances and words of love and loss.
In all of this, I felt an intense communal calm of love and loss. The loss that we all felt together, and the love of those that were there to support those like myself, whose wounds had not healed completely.
If you have never been to this event, it is something that you should make an effort to come to Hawaii, and make it a part of your trip.
My Tips for the Attendees to the Lantern Floating Event 2015
Knowing that there are only a limited number of lanterns, you should pick up your lanterns as soon as they are available at 10am on the day of the event. You can actually leave the area and take your time with how you want to express yourself with your lantern. You can have your lanterns adorned with leis, shells, photos and other things - keeping in mind that there will be a candle burning inside the lantern, and that whatever you put on the lantern must be able to remain buoyant. Use colored sharpies to express yourself on the sides of the lanterns and don't worry so much as to how neat it is, or if you make a mistake.
Make sure you are familiar with the area, and that you retain the events brochure from the lantern pick-up. It will let you know the time-line of events for the day should there be any changes.
If you want to make it into an event for the whole family, know that any tents that you set up and parking along the in the beach park, you'll have to be there very early in the morning. Once families are in position, they will not be leaving their parking spaces except to load up and leave - that won't happen until after the event.
Because of the way shuttles to the convention center are situated, this is one of those rare exceptions when it is not worth parking there and utilizing the shuttles. Instead, the smarter thing to do is to park at the Ala Moana shopping center where there is more than enough parking for everyone. All it takes is a walk across the park, and you're there. Finding a parking spot before noon will guarantee the best parking, but even coming out at 5pm will get you a spot a little farther back.
Making sure that you are prepared not only to get into the water up to your chest, but that all your belongings are secured and safe from being immersed in salt water. Car fobs, cell phones, and wallets should all be passed onto others that will be ashore. Leave all unnecessary belongings in your trunk, if you leave anything on the sand when you launch your lanterns, you may not be able to recover it let alone find where you left it. People will be making their way towards the beach - the whole shoreline will be covered with people participating in the event.
Don't forget towels and appropriate clothes for the water - especially if you have a rental car - use your towels to cover your seats.
Most of all, have an awesome time, take lots of pictures, and be patient and respectful to those that are around you. Hope to see you here in 2015. Peace. Kawi