Thousands remember lost loved ones in annual lantern floating ce - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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Thousands remember lost loved ones in annual lantern floating ceremony

Around 50,000 people showed up to remember loved ones lost on Monday night. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Around 50,000 people showed up to remember loved ones lost on Monday night. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
More than 50,000 people are expected to attend this year's lantern floating ceremony on Memorial Day. (Image: Lantern Floating Hawaii) More than 50,000 people are expected to attend this year's lantern floating ceremony on Memorial Day. (Image: Lantern Floating Hawaii)

Tens of thousands of people lined the shores of Ala Moana Beach Park on Monday to send illuminated lanterns off into the sunset to remember loved ones they've lost. 

The solemn, striking Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony, established by the head priest of Shinnyo-en temple, is in its 20th year. The ceremony was created as a way to establish a connection between Buddhist and American cultures.

"It's a time where people can say goodbye to loved ones that passed before them," said Rev. Craig Yamamoto, of the Shinnyo-en temple.

The ceremony began Monday evening, and a crowd of as many as 50,000 people participated in the event. Jordan McNeil was a first-timer at this year's ceremony, and dedicated his lantern to his nieces Harper and Harlow.

"It’s cool how everyone has their dedications to family members who passed away on their tents and stuff and different signs," Harlow said.

Kalei Vierra has attended the ceremony for the last six years and says she finds the experience to be cathartic.

"It’s a way for us to release our emotions and try to get some kind of closure," Vierra said. "There’s something about everyone being in the same space at the same time and grieving over someone, someone they lost, that gives us comfort."

The inaugural lantern floating ceremony was held at Keehi lagoon, but organizers soon moved it to Ala Moana Beach as the event grew.

"These lanterns carry the names of those who passed away, as well as recent calamities of the world," Yamamoto said. "We’re all here grieving. Each of us has experienced a loss and no one's loss is any greater than the person next to you."

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