The Annual Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony will take place on Memorial Day. More than 7,000 candle-lit lanterns bearing individual and community remembrances and prayers will illuminate the ocean off of Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park.
This is the second year that the ceremony, known simply as Hawaii Lantern Floating during its first 20 years, will be going by a slightly different name by adding "Shinnyo" to the title.
The event brings together more than 50,000 Hawaii residents and visitors from around the world and from various cultures and traditions who cast afloat lanterns at sunset in remembrance of loved ones who have passed, or as symbolic prayer for a harmonious and peaceful future. The ceremony will also recognize those who have passed due to various causes afflicting humanity throughout the world. Celebrating shinnyo, or the true nature and light of every living being, the lanterns symbolize our connection to each other with the theme "Many Rivers, One Ocean -- Share your Light."
Ceremony and Lantern Floating
The 60-minute ceremony and program will commence at 6:30 p.m. and will include Shinnyo-en Shomyo and Taiko Ensembles. Also included throughout the program are videos that explain the lantern floating tradition in Japan and offer personal reflections of the experience.
After the Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii opening ceremonies Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head of Shinnyo-en, will address the crowd, followed by the lighting of the Light of Harmony. After the lighting, the lanterns will be set afloat onto the waters of the Pacific Ocean at Magic Island by the general public and volunteers. At the conclusion of the ceremony, as in past years, all lanterns are collected from the ocean and restored for use in the upcoming years.
You can view a video of the 2018 ceremony here.
The Lanterns and Messages
Volunteers begin constructing the lanterns in March and the public is welcomed and encouraged to participate in the event to remember those who have passed. Those attending the ceremony may choose to float their own lantern, or write their remembrance or prayer on special paper that will be placed on on collective remembrance lanterns to be floated by volunteers.
The Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii Request Tent will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the day of the ceremony. Families or groups who wish to float a lantern are kindly asked to limit themselves to one lantern per family or group so that all who wish to float their own lantern are able to do so. Multiple remembrances can be written on each four-sided lantern.
Beginning in March, the public is also invited to submit their remembrances ahead of time at Shinnyo-en Hawaii (2348 South Beretania Street) during temple hours. To accommodate those in and outside of Hawaii who are unable to visit the temple, online submissions are being accepted through Sunday, May 26 at www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com. The messages received will be placed on Collective Remembrance Lanterns to be floated during the ceremony by volunteers.
Free event parking is available at the Hawaii Convention Center from 7:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. A complimentary shuttle and Handi Van will transport attendees between the Hawaii Convention Center and Ala Moana Beach from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and back to the Convention Center after the ceremony until 9:30 p.m.
The first Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony was held at Ke‘ehi Lagoon on Memorial Day 1999 and has grown each year in response to community demand. Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, officiated the ceremony herself in hopes of creating a new tradition in Hawaii that would create harmony between the state's many different cultures.
Shinnyo-en and sponsor Na Lei Aloha Foundation have nurtured the community event as a vehicle for cross-cultural cooperation, understanding, harmony and peace which engages hundreds of volunteers and thousands of participants annually.
The ceremony was moved to Ala Moana in 2002, just a few miles down from where it initially began.
There is no cost to participate in the Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony. However, any voluntary donations received prior to the event day go toward supporting the ceremony, and donations received on the event day at the beach are gifted to the City & County of Honolulu for the maintenance and beautification of Ala Moana Beach Park.
For further information on making a donation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viewing the Ceremony on TV and Online
Those unable to attend Lantern Floating Hawaii in person may watch the entire ceremony live on KGMB9 from from 6:30-7:30 p.m or online at www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com beginning at 6:30 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time.
My Experience in 2010
I attended the event in 2010 and found it to be a lovely and magical night. Lantern Floating Hawaii is ultimately about the people who get a lantern, write their special messages to deceased love ones, prayers to their God, hopes for the world and much more, and then place it in the water for the tide to take out to sea. (As mentioned previously, all of the lanterns are recovered to be used the next year.
It is very much like lighting a candle in a Roman Catholic Church or writing a prayer on a piece of paper and then burning it as you watch the smoke rise to the heavens. What you ultimately take from it is up to you. It comes down to faith. For some the event was just fun, for some symbolic, but, for far more, something very spiritual as you could clearly see in their tears.
I floated a lantern and included messages for many of my loved ones long gone and even our first cat who died of cancer 35 years ago. Do I believe that they will get them? I don't honestly know. But, I do hope so.