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Lanterns shed light on 2,000-plus memories


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POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

A soldier will honor his sergeant who died in Iraq.

A grandmother will remember her grandson who succumbed to leukemia.

               

     

 

LANTERN FLOATING HAWAII

        » Place: Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park, Honolulu
       

» Date: Tomorrow

       

» Time: 6:30 p.m.

       

» Admission: Free. Donations are welcome and will be donated to the City and County of Honolulu for the beautification of Ala Moana Beach Park.

       

» Phone: 942-1848

       

» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

       

» Web site: www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com

       

» Notes: Registration for lanterns will start at 1 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis at the Lantern Request Tent at the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Beach Park, on the ocean side of Ala Moana Access Road. To enable as many people as possible to share in this ceremony, there's a limit of one lantern per family. Free parking will be available at the Hawaii Convention Center. A complimentary shuttle will provide transportation to Magic Island beginning at 4 p.m. Return transportation will start right after the ceremony. Pickup point will be the Ewa-ocean end of the Magic Island parking lot.

       

 

       

A man will say goodbye to his mother and sister, both of whom recently died.

A child will bring memories and photos of a dog she dearly misses.

Tomorrow as twilight falls, more than 2,000 candle-lit lanterns bearing the names, pictures, leis, personal messages and other remembrances of loved ones lost will illuminate the waters off Magic Island during Lantern Floating Hawaii's 10th-anniversary ceremony.

Held each year on Memorial Day, the one-hour event brings together 40,000 kamaaina and visitors from all walks of life. Fittingly, its theme is “;Many Rivers, One Ocean.”;

“;The theme expresses what the ceremony is all about: coming together as a global community to pray for hope, peace and harmony for the future,”; said Roy Ho, executive director of the Na Lei Aloha Foundation, the philanthropic organization of Shinnyo-en Hawaii (see sidebar), which sponsors the event.

“;Each individual has a reason for being there and experiences something personally meaningful and significant.”;

He recalls a kumu hula (hula master) who watched in awe as her aumakua (family god), a white owl, suddenly appeared during the ceremony. There have been accounts of people who've witnessed the wind inexplicably shift or the currents change as the lanterns were released in the ocean, as if directed by a mystical force. Many others have felt the presence of deceased friends and family whom the lanterns honor.

According to Asian tradition, the lanterns also carry prayers for world peace and heartfelt wishes for the victims of war, disaster and disease.

“;Lantern Floating Hawaii is open to people of all cultures, nations and faiths,”; said Ho. “;Its goal is to inspire people to value one another and to work together in creating a better world. During the ceremony, we pay respect to our ancestors, and we are moved to malama ko aloha (keep the love) that we feel there by demonstrating it in our daily lives. It is a way we can express our gratitude for the past while looking toward a brighter future.”;

This year's ceremony includes a Buddhist service led by Her Holiness Shinso Ito, the head of Shinnyo-en, and performances by acclaimed trumpeter Matthias Hofs; the Lantern Floating Hawaii Orchestra and Choir; inspirational pop and R&B vocalist Christina Souza; Halau Hula Olana; and the Shomyo Choir composed of Shinnyo-en members from Germany, France, Italy and England.

“;Each person who attends will leave with a special story to tell because during the shared lantern floating experience, there are always moments of self-reflection,”; Ho said. “;Afterward many people feel a sense of peace, joy and renewal that they hadn't felt before.”;

The lanterns are set adrift by participants on shore and in eight double-hulled canoes. Ho remembers being in one of the canoes at Keehi Lagoon in 2000, the second year the ceremony was held.

“;As we lit the candles in our lanterns, an incredibly warm feeling embraced us,”; he said. “;When we placed the lanterns in the water, the wind and ocean became still; it was very silent and peaceful—a sacred feeling of oneness that I'll never forget.”;

Lantern Floating Hawaii underscores the fact that no matter what their differences might be, the people of the world are indeed many “;rivers”; converging into one “;ocean”;—mankind.

“;Everyone who participates in the ceremony feels enriched and inspired by the experience,”; Ho said. “;They believe that world peace may be possible one day when they see so many people of different backgrounds coming together in harmony.”;

 

Na Lei Aloha Foundation

Na Lei Aloha (leis of embracement) is a fitting name for a Honolulu-based organization that brings people together to build relationships through encouraging, sharing, understanding and cooperation in our diverse Hawaii community.

Founded in 2004 by Shinnyo-en, a Buddhist order established 73 years ago in Japan, it supports various nonprofit organizations in Hawaii, including Kids Hurt Too (http://www.grievingyouth.org) and Hoa Aina o Makaha (http://www.hoa-aina.org).

After Shinnyo-en's founder, Shinjo Ito, died in 1989, his daughter, Shinso Ito, assumed leadership of the order and its charitable work. Shinnyo-en has approximately 1 million members throughout the world; 2,500 members live in Hawaii.

 

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.