I flew out of Honolulu late the night of Memorial day, so we went down to the Ala Moana Beach Park for the Lantern Festival before my flight.
The Lantern Festival is held every Memorial day, and people come from all over the world to participate. Anyone can buy a lantern (last time I checked I think they were $15) and decorate it with messages to their loved ones who have died.
The ceremony starts at sunset, with a couple of speeches, and some hula dancing. There are groups of people in outrigger canoes that start paddling across the cove in front of the beach, releasing lanterns into the water. Then people on the beach start to wade into the water and release their own lanterns.
The lanterns float out to sea for awhile, and are eventually pushed back to the beach by the waves, but when it’s dark and all the whole cove is lit up with paper lanterns, it is truly beautiful to see.
If you want to participate, make sure to come by the park earlier in the day to get your lantern so you’ll have time to decorate it, and so they don’t sell out.
The beach gets really crowded as sunset approaches so make sure to get there early if you want to get a good spot, but if you set up a blanket and think you are going to be able to see, think again. Everyone stands in and along the water, so if you are sitting behind you won’t see anything but people.
The cove is large though, so if you want to go, and you want to see, you will be able to, even if you are a little farther away. This year was the second time I’ve been to the festival, and I think it’s a beautiful tradition. I haven’t been there early enough to get a lantern yet, but I’m sure I will one day.