The Message Remains Timeless but Most of the Stories are Different

The fact that each year over 40,000 people crowd Ala Moana Beach park, on a narrow strip of sand, that would normally hold a few thousand comfortably, is one example of how determined the crowds are to attend. This surprised me the first time I went, as I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be in the midst of such a large crowd, but I settled in on my 5 foot square blanket as close to the stage as there was still room for two hours before start time. I looked around at the crowd and never imagined that within 2 hours there would be quadruple the number of people there on the same small space. My second surprise was the crowd. I’ve never been in the midst of such polite, generous, gracious, respectful and helpful people. Many of the people were here on their Hawaii Vacations and stumbled across the ceremony They were here for a reverent event and acted accordingly. And it was a pleasure to be amongst them. The video here was taken well into the event when most of the people had arrived and set up their sitting areas. You can see how hard it was for me to just get to the outskirts of the sand.

Video: it’s a bit dizzy… but take a look at how I had to walk around.

For an hour I watched the production from my seat on the sand. I’m not sure who puts this all together but it’s amazingly professional, with exceptional audio, giant viewing screens for the crowd, beautiful music, dance, chanting, taiko drums and a blessing of the lanterns. The local media captured it for live viewing on a local TV channel, so those at home can just tune in to see it. Or those on their computers, or those off island, were given the option to download streaming video.

Once the first lantern’s candle was lit and released, I made my way down to the water where one by one, or by the tens, inpiduals, groups, families – took their turn in releasing their lantern in to the cove. The wind and the current were just right that night and swept them all out quickly into the waters farther out. And it was a beautiful sight. A moving sight, made more poignant by the tears of those releasing their lantern. I saw a woman holding a small caged parrot whom she let watch her lantern float away. I saw two large groups of Japanese women who wore the same hats and shirts honoring someone they all knew. With the close relationship between Hawaii and Japan, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that many came here for this ceremony. And sadly, many singles were saying goodbye so someone special.

2 custom lanterns. Sign posting. Beachside at Ala Moana Park.

Many floats were as unique as the person they were honoring. Free bags with standard lantern kits were available on a walk up basis the afternoon of the event. You could add your own message. But many people made their own, especially suited to their loved one, adorned with a favorite flower or lei, maybe a piece of favorite food, pictures, or messages. There were too many to look at out of the 3000 + that were launched. As the inpidual floats went out and lit up the waters a hundred feet out and then all came together when they hit a barrier, it seemed mimic the message : “Many Rivers, One Ocean”. Truly a recommended event.

The stage and lanterns in the dark.

But I underestimated the scale and professionalism of this production!


  1. A couple of my friends went this year to honor thier departed mother, they said it was a very moving experience.

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