Preparations underway for holiday lantern floating ceremony

It may be more than a month away, but preparations began Saturday for the Memorial Day lantern floating ceremony, when thousands of the lit memorials are set in waters off Magic Island.

Volunteers from the Kalani High School Japanese language class, Farrington High School and Punahou School key clubs, along with other volunteers and temple practitioners, started cleaning and assembling the lanterns at the Shinnyo-en Hawaii temple.

One of the volunteers said he’s never even been to the ceremony in person. Student Mark Meno said “I have watched the videos that they present to us at the orientation, and they’re touching and impactful. You can feel the emotions that everybody feels at the lantern festival, so I might actually go watch the festival this year.”

Lantern construction leader Larry Sakagawa said that the festival “applies to everybody. It’s not a religious event, but a cultural one.”

People put their prayers to their departed loved ones on the lanterns and sets them adrift. Sakagawa said those prayers will be on 6,000 lanterns this year, so more volunteers will be working every weekend until the day of the event.

About 40,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony on May 24.

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