This Memorial Day, an estimated 50,000 people from all over the globe gathered on the shores of Honolulu's Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island to take part in a breathtakingly beautiful memorial event hosted by Shinnyo-en, an international Buddhist community.
This year, family and friends released 7,000 lanterns bearing the names and memories of their lost loved ones into the gentle waters of the bay as the sun set. The ceremony brings people together in solemn, often cathartic remembrance that transcends ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries. At the end of the ceremony, all lanterns are respectfully collected by volunteers for reuse the following year.
Here are a few moments from the 2018 Lantern Floating Hawaii.
Each annual ceremony begins with a series of performances and an introductory program. Here are the Shinnyo Taiko drummers, offering their rhythms as a prayer of peace.
The taiko drums were accompanied by an oli, or Hawaiian chant, by Kawehi Goto.
A crowd of about 50,000 people from all nations gathered on the shores of Honolulu's Magic Island Lagoon.
This year, Hookena were the featured musical performers, dedicating their song with gratitude and aloha to their own loved ones who have passed.
A man prepares his lantern on the shore.
The priests of Shinnyo-en, enter with the main lanterns, which are floated in rememberance of all people.
Her Holiness Shinso Ito, head of Shinnyo-en Buddhism, addresses the crowd.
Many in this section of the crowd have traveled from Japan for the ceremony, and bring their hands together in prayer as Her Holiness speaks.
On the beach, people wait to float their lanterns.
Her Holiness and leaders of the local community set the Light of Harmony ablaze.
The ceremony concludes with a powerful and moving hula performance by Halau Ka Noeau, led by kumu hula Michael Pili Pang.
This family came out together to float their lanterns.
"We're floating for friends and family who have passed," said Chris (left). One side of her lantern reads "Although you are with the angels above, know that we will miss you always. Watch over us and keep us safe."
As the sun begins to set, the pure sound of a gong fills the air, the signal for everyone to float their lanterns.
People say farewell and let their lanterns go.
Some messages are long and heartfelt. Others are simple, yet say it all.
A volunteer lifeguard keeps watch over those floating their lanterns.
Some have taped photographs of their loved ones to the lanterns.
Emotion is written on every face.
Volunteers gently shepherd the lanterns away from shore.
As the sky darkens, the lanterns slowly drift toward the sea.
The lanterns' glow gives the lagoon a peaceful, almost magical ambiance.
Soon, the thousands of floating lanterns are the main source of light.
Messages of remembrance are written in every language.
As these floating symbols of hope light up the bay, they remind us that those we love will never be forgotten.
Each lantern is made earlier in the spring by Shinnyo practitioners, other volunteers and groups from schools, businesses and organizations. Residents and visitors to Hawaii are welcome to participate in the ceremony. If you cannot be physically present, you may submit your remembrances online to be included.
After every ceremony, all the lanterns are respectfully collected, cleaned and repurposed for the following year. The ceremony is a nonprofit, and lanterns or souvenirs are not available for purchase.
For more information about Shinnyo-en and the lantern floating ceremony, visit lanternfloatinghawaii.com.