Thousands gather to remember loved ones at lantern floating event

Thousands gather to remember loved ones at lantern floating event
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the sun set Monday, tens of thousands lined the calm shores of Ala Moana Beach Park's Magic Island to place illuminated lanterns on the water, watching them drift away into the horizon.

"When the sun goes down and we start letting the lanterns out, it's magical," said attendee Dexter Bajarin.

It's become an annual tradition, and this year was no different: Organizers say an estimated 50,000 people gather to set their lanterns afloat as part of the Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony.

In fact, due to its popularity, event organizers increased the number of lanterns this year to 7,000.

Participants got a chance to write messages to their loved ones on paper lanterns ahead of time. And by 3:30 p.m., organizers had already run out of lanterns to provide to latecomers.

"I'm surprised, yet I believe everyone's there for the same purpose: to honor their ancestors as well as their loved ones that have passed before us," said Rev. Craig Yamamoto, temple manager of Shinnyo-En Hawaii.

Read the stories of some of the attendees who lit lanterns.

The event, co-emceed by Hawaii News Now's Dan Cooke and Mahealani Richardson, commenced with an opening Pu -- or blowing of the conch shell -- followed by taiko drumming by the group Shinnyo Taiko and singing by Hawaiian artists Raiatea Helm and Jonathan Osorio.

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, head of Shinnyo-en, officiated the ceremony with an address to the thousands of attendees.

"Together, we are then inspired toward a future of hope," she said, through a translator, about the lantern floating.

Other highlights of the program included the lighting of the light of harmony by Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other dignitaries, as well as a hula performance by Halau Ka Lehua Tuahine.

It was a poignant and personal moment for both residents and visitors alike, offering a chance to reflect on loved ones who have been lost.

Attendee Donna Quach said the ceremony is all the more important given that it falls on Memorial Day.

The day, she said, is about "remembering our soldiers who fought for our country, died for it, to give us the things were are able to do."

This year's theme was "Many Rivers, One Ocean," but the sub-theme was "hope."

"Through Lantern Floating, we can feel this sense of gratitude to be supported," said Justin Goshi, youth leader of Shinnyo-En Hawaii. "We can feel this sense of community and that can build or feelings of courage and hope."

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