HONOLULU (March 15, 2017) — The largest Memorial Day observance in the United States happens on the beach in Honolulu, Hawaii with the Lantern Floating Hawaii 2017 ceremony, officiated by Shinnyo-en, an international Buddhist community with Japanese roots and presented by its locally based social-contributing arm, Nā Lei Aloha Foundation.
The ceremony is a free, public event that will take place on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017. In its 19th year, more than 50,000 participants will set afloat over 7,000 candle-lit lanterns that bear remembrances and prayers to illuminate the shores of Honolulu’s Ala Moana Beach at sunset. Themed “Many Rivers, One Ocean – Interconnectedness,” the annual Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony provides an opportunity for thoughts and prayers from around the globe to create a moment of collective remembrance, harmony and international friendship.
The lantern floating ceremony is observed from dusk to sunset on Memorial Day. The ceremony starts with the sounding of the conch shell to the North, East, South, then West and includes diverse cultural and spiritual rituals and artistic expressions such as traditional Japanese Taiko drums, hula dance and Buddhist sutras set in a Western classical style. Leading up to the release of lanterns, a message to inspire hope and peace from head priest of Shinnyo-en, Her Holiness Shinso Ito will be shared. Four community leaders will join Her Holiness for the lighting of the Light of Harmony.
Known for sharing ancient traditions in ways that are relevant in modern society, Shinso Ito explains, “The light of the lanterns that we see before us connects us with our loved ones who came before us. The act of floating lanterns symbolizes our intentions to put our thoughts into actions. The light of the lantern symbolizes wisdom; water is a symbol of compassion.”
Every Memorial Day, participants come from around the world to honor fallen service members and all who laid a foundation for their lives. Many come to witness the peaceful beauty of thousands of lanterns on the Pacific Ocean. The event provides a personal and collective experience where families, friends and even strangers reach out to support one another.
Lantern Floating Hawaii is the culmination of a year of planning, supported by the help of hundreds of volunteers. People who cannot attend have the opportunity to have remembrances included on lanterns through an online submission. Volunteers hand-transcribe and affix these online submissions to collective remembrance lanterns and float them on behalf of the thousands from around the world who participate in this way. For those wishing to personally float a lantern, individual lanterns are available on site, at no charge, on the ceremony day. Volunteers retrieve the lanterns from the ocean following the ceremony and clean and refurbish them for use in future years.
The first Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony was held in 1999 at Ke‘ehi Lagoon on Memorial Day and has grown each year in response to community interest. Shinnyo-en, meaning “borderless garden of the unchanging and real nature of things,” is a growing international Buddhist community with temples and centers throughout the United States and the world, the Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being is located in New York City.