Memorial lanterns float in the water at Magic Island, Honolulu during the 20th annual Lantern Floating Hawaii.
 

Photo By Tracy Chan

Touching scenes from Lantern Floating Hawaii 2018

A beautiful Honolulu Memorial Day tradition, the remembrance event hosted by Shinnyo-en was attended by thousands of visitors and residents.

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, which marked the ceremony's 20th anniversary.

 

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.

 

lantern floating
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

The taiko drums were accompanied by an oli, or Hawaiian chant, by Kawehi Goto.   

 

oli
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

A crowd of about 50,000 people from all nations gathered on the shores of Honolulu's Magic Island Lagoon. 

 

lantern floating
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

This year, Hookena were the featured musical performers, dedicating their song with gratitude and aloha to their own loved ones who have passed. 

 

hookena
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

A man prepares his lantern on the shore.

 

lantern
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

The priests of Shinnyo-en, enter with the main lanterns, which are floated in rememberance of all people.

 

priests
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, head of Shinnyo-en Buddhism, addresses the crowd. 

 

shinso ito
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

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.

 

japan
Photo: Trenton Kakazu

 

On the beach, people wait to float their lanterns.

 

lanterns
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Her Holiness and leaders of the local community set the Light of Harmony ablaze. 

 

light of harmony
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

The ceremony concludes with a powerful and moving hula performance by Halau Ka Noeau, led by kumu hula Michael Pili Pang.

 

hula
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

This family came out together to float their lanterns. 

 

family
Photo: Tracy Chan

"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. 

 

sunset
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

People say farewell and let their lanterns go.

 

lanterns
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Some messages are long and heartfelt. Others are simple, yet say it all.

 

lantern
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

A volunteer lifeguard keeps watch over those floating their lanterns. 

 

lifeguard
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Some have taped photographs of their loved ones to the lanterns.

 

lanterns
Photo: Trenton Kakazu

 

Emotion is written on every face.

 

lanterns
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Volunteers gently shepherd the lanterns away from shore. 

 

lanterns
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

As the sky darkens, the lanterns slowly drift toward the sea. 

 

lantern
Photo: Trenton Kakazu

 

The lanterns' glow gives the lagoon a peaceful, almost magical ambiance. 

 

lantern
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Soon, the thousands of floating lanterns are the main source of light. 

 

lanterns
Photo: Tracy Chan

 

Messages of remembrance are written in every language. 

 

lanterns
Photo: Trenton Kakazu

 

As these floating symbols of hope light up the bay, they remind us that those we love will never be forgotten.

 

lantern
Photo: Trenton Kakazu

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.