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Each year Memorial Day is a time for people from around the country to honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedom. In the islands many use the day to visit the graves of loved ones.

To help cultivate cultural harmony and understanding, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, the Head of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order, launched the first Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony on Memorial Day in 1999. For the first three years the ceremony was held at Keehi Lagoon until 2002, when the service was moved to Ala Moana Beach Park where it has been ever since.

While elements of the ceremony are taken from religious traditions, Shinnyo-en, in partnership with other groups, has adapted the ceremony to be a interfaith celebration of the people who have come before us.

This year Lantern Floating Hawaii will celebrate its 15th annual event on Memorial Day, May 27, 2013. The event — which regularly draws tens of thousands of people who flock from around Oahu and the world to Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park and countless more who tune in through a live stream and broadcast — allows participants to reflect and honor those who have passed on. Many families will actually camp out and make a day out of it to enjoy the live entertainment that precedes the show. As the sun sets more than 5,000 candlelit lanterns are set afloat in the ocean, a Buddhist practice and ceremony based on the concept of “many rivers, one oceans.”

Participants are invited to choose a lantern, write their remembrance or prayer on a special piece of paper that is placed on one of the remembrance lanterns. The lantern tent opens at 10 a.m. the day of the event for those looking to write a remembrance on a collective remembrance lantern. Those who wish to share a message or memory of a loved one who has passed can submit their thoughts online at by the week prior to the event. All messages received will be included on the lanterns released during the ceremony. It is free to receive a lantern or send a message, though donations are accepted for the City and County of Honolulu.