Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony lights up ocean and spirits - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony lights up ocean and spirits

Lenny Rapozo Lenny Rapozo
Tina Gaubran, on left in white Tina Gaubran, on left in white
Melinda Carol Melinda Carol
Shinso Ito Shinso Ito

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

ALA MOANA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lanterns lit up the night as thousands of people watched a spiritual Asian ritual at Ala Moana Beach Park Monday night.

Organizers say more than 40,000 people came out to the Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony. This year, there's a change in the number of visitors from Japan.

It's an emotional Memorial Day tradition, 12 years strong.

"{It makes me think of} mostly my dad and how much I think about him everyday," said Lenny Rapozo, Kauai Parks and Recreation Department Director.

Though the lantern floating ceremony is led by the Japanese Buddhist denomination Shinnyo-en, it attracts visitors of all religions and backgrounds, even folks from Lebanon.

"It's such a beautiful thing to watch," said Tina Gaubran from Lebanon, who just moved to Hawaii a year ago.

2,000 visitors from Japan came compared to only 800 last year. H1N1 kept people from flying in. But this year, organizers say the numbers are back to normal. The ceremony typically attracts between 1500 to 2000 people from Japan.

Country singer Melinda Carol of Maui graced the stage of this years folk-themed ceremony.

Halau Hula Olana was among the performers.

Shinnyo-en's leader, Shinso Ito, led the ceremony which involved lighting the Torch of Harmony before releasing the lanterns, 2000 of them, into the ocean. Each one carries a prayer or name of a loved one who has passed away.

As tradition has it, the candles are meant to serve as a guiding light for spirits to help them move on to the next life and bring their loved ones on Earth some peace.

"Yes, it kind of helps but I guess it also just brings back the memories of what {my dad} was like when he was here," said Rapozo.

Out of respect for the ocean, all the lanterns will be collected and reused next year.

Lantern Floating Hawaii is presented by Na Lei Aloha Foundation.

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