Every year on the last Monday of May, United States of America observe the Memorial Day for remembering the people who died while serving the country’s armed forces. On that day, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, to honor those who have lost their lives in military service and place flowers on the grave of their beloved, who passed away while serving the country. As Hawaii is a place with a diverse population and assimilated tradition, the people of Hawaii celebrate the day in a slightly different manner. They visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to pay respects to the fallen servicemen and women buried in the Hill of Sacrifice. Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops of Oahu lay 38,000 fresh flowers on the graves, donated by the community and local schools, while the Royal Hawaiian Band performs at the cemetery for one hour from 8 o’clock in the morning.
In the evening the unique Lantern Floating Festival is held at the Ala Moana Beach, which has now become an Oahu tradition. It really becomes spectacular, when in the presence of about 50.000 people approximately 6,000 lighted candles float and glide through the dark sea, like the reflection of the twinkling stars of the heaven above. It symbolizes a tribute to all the departed souls who passed away while serving the country’s forces, wish them eternal peace and at the same time, it represents a combined prayer for love, peace and harmony in the world.
It is to be noted that, with the object of creating cultural harmony and understanding among the people, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, officiated the inaugural Lantern Floating ceremony on the Memorial Day of 1999. For the first three years, the event was held at Ke’ehi Lagoon on the south shore of O’ahu, and in the year 2002, the ceremony was moved a few miles down the coast to Ala Moana Beach where it has been observed every year since then. The beach is wide enough to accommodate the huge gathering and everyone patiently waits for his or her turn to send off their remembrance lantern to the wide wide sea. The Lantern Floating festival is actually a prayer, a prayer in disguise, a prayer for the world peace and harmony