Thousands of people gather on Oahu’s south shore every Memorial Day to participate in a lantern floating ceremony that honors all of the nation’s Memorial Day veterans. Thousands of others from around the world also join the live streaming broadcast, all in a show of love and support for those who have fought for our country and our freedom.
Each and every year the number of lanterns that is requested increases. With over 3,000 lanterns set to be put in the water this time around, the numbers are becoming pretty staggering. Not only that, but over 40,000 Hawaii residents are expected to be in attendance this year, with that number continuing to grow every year.
Lantern Floating History and Background
Lighting candles for the departed is a tradition that is embraced and practiced across most cultures and religions to illuminate the way, convey warmth and create hope and a sense of connection.
Toro Nagashi, or “lantern offerings on the water” is a time-honored Buddhist rite to pay respect to ancestors and offer comfort to spirits of the deceased. Candle-lit lanterns carry heartfelt prayers for those who have sacrificed their lives in war, for victims of water-related accidents, natural disasters, famine and disease, as well as loved ones who have passed away.
Lantern floating ceremonies symbolically ferry the spirits of the deceased back to the spiritual realm to mark the completion of Obon, the Buddhist tradition of welcoming spirits of family members back to celebrate with and be honored by the living. Obon observances are traditionally held during the later summer months. Shinnyo-en observes the traditional period of Obon with its corresponding services including a lantern floating ceremony in addition to the May observances in Hawaiʻi.
Memorial Day in America is a day when people remember and honor those who have died in service to their country. In Hawaiʻi, with its diverse population, traditions become easily adopted and assimilated into its rich cultural fabric. It is the norm for people in Hawaiʻi on Memorial Day to place flowers and offerings on gravesites of loved ones who served their country and all others who have passed away.
On Memorial Day 1999, the Buddhist Order, Shinnyo-en officiated the inaugural Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony. Through 2001, the event was held at Keʻehi Lagoon on the south shore of Oʻahu. In 2002, the ceremony was moved to the Magic Island end of Ala Moana Beach where it has been observed every year since.
The ceremony is always broadcast live in Hawaiʻi and then rebroadcast at later dates, shared tape-delayed to other viewers in Asia, Europe, Australia, North and South America, streamed live over the internet and will be available on-demand from this website. You can watch the live stream below every year. Below you will find the dates for the Lantern Floating Hawaii Memorial Day Ceremonies for the next several years. Happy Memorial Day!
2012: May 28th | 2013: May 27th | 2014: May 26th | 2015: May 25th | 2016: May 30th | 2017: May 29th
2018: May 28th | 2019: May 27th | 2020: May 25th | 2021: May 24th | 2022: May 23rd | 2023: May 29th
Watch the Streaming Video Here Every Year