Ritual of Floating Lantern Offerings Honors Lost Loved Ones on Memorial Day (video)
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
“Ritual is something we use that moves us gently from one thing, one feeling, one experience, one mindset into another feeling, or experience, or mindset.” ~Rabbi Pearl Barlev
On this Memorial Day, an estimated 40,000 people will gather along the shores of Ala Moana Beach Park on the Hawaiian island of Oahu to participate in a Toro Nagashi, a “lantern offerings on the water” ceremony. It’s a way for the living to honor and remember lost loved ones.
Toro Nagashi is a Japanese ritual developed by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order in 1952. The Memorial Day ceremony made its way to Hawaii in the late 1990s. Participants adorn floating paper lanterns with hand-written messages. And, at dusk, the lanterns are released into the water.
Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike take part in the Hawaiian ceremony, which is now in its 13th year. Where the Water Meets the Sky, the half-hour documentary featured above, offers a window into the lives of people who are drawn to participate.
The Toro Nagashi ceremony provides a way for individuals to publicly grieve a personal loss together with strangers, and to commemorate the links binding past, present, and future generations.
“The ancestors belong to a world beyond which we can imagine,” says UC Berkeley Japanese Studies professor Duncan Williams, who appears in the film. “And you use the lanterns to communicate to those who are in the other world.”
(photo: Alex Porras/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
About the image (top): A young girl holds a glowing lantern inscribed with messages to a mother. (photo: Ryan Ozawa/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)