This art piece illustrates the Lantern Festival, as it takes place in Hawai’i. The Lantern Festival has its origins in Buddhist ceremonies to honor the deceased. In Japan, the practice came to be associated with the end of Obon, a celebration of ancestors. Once the practice came to Hawai’i, it came to be celebrated on Memorial Day, tying in with the holiday traditions of honoring men and women who died in the armed forces, and is celebrated by people of all backgrounds. The practice is environmentally friendly – all lanterns are gathered after the ceremony and reused.
The ceremony is quite moving. Live musical performances build up the mood. As the sun sets, the first few lanterns are released, soon followed by thousands of other lanterns. Each lantern has panels inscribed with the names of loved ones now passed. Family members carefully approach the water, sometimes with tears welling in their eyes, as they lovingly set the lantern on its journey. Soon the whole bay is a glow with thousands of shimmering lanterns all swaying gently with the waves and currents as they slowly move out with the tide. The crowd gazes on, memorized, until the lanterns are little luminous specks in the distance.