Lantern Floating Hawaii - Memorial Day

2017 Event Remembers Loved Ones Who Have Passed and Offers Hopes for Peace

Lantern Floating Hawaii
Naomi Hayes of Island Memories Photography / Getty Images

The 19th Annual Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony will take place on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017. More than 6,000 candle-lit lanterns bearing individual and community remembrances and prayers will illuminate the ocean off of Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park.

The event brings together more than 40,000 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. The theme of Lantern Floating Hawaii is "Many Rivers, One Ocean."

"Lantern floating is a spiritual tradition that welcomes people from all backgrounds to come together in remembering their loved ones, healing their grief, and praying for a harmonious future," said Roy Ho from Na Lei Aloha Foundation. "We hope that Lantern Floating Hawaii allows people to experience a feeling of warmth, joy, loving kindness, and compassion, whether they participate from shore or view from their homes."

2017 Ceremony and Lantern Floating

This year's 90 minute ceremony and program will commence at 6:15 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.

At 6:45 p.m., 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.

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 Lantern Request tent will open at 10 a.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.

The public is also invited to submit their remembrances ahead of time at Shinnyo-en Hawaii (2348 South Beretania Street) during temple hours through May 17. To accommodate those in and outside of Hawaii who are unable to visit the temple, online submissions are being accepted through Sunday, May 29 at The messages received will be placed on lanterns to be floated during the ceremony.

More information and updates about Lantern Floating Hawaii are available on the event website and on Facebook at


Free event parking is available at the Hawaii Convention Center from 7:00 a.m. until midnight. A complimentary shuttle will transport attendees between the Hawaii Convention Center and Ala Moana Beach beginning at 3:00 p.m. and back to the Convention Center beginning at 7:30 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. 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.


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

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 6:15-7:30 p.m or online at beginning at 6:15 p.m. Hawaii 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.