Recently, we heard about a huge ceremony that happens in Honolulu every Memorial Day.  Tens of thousands of people collect in Ala Moana Beach Park to honor those who have passed before us.  Many come just to observe, but more than 5,000 lanterns are let go into the Pacific Ocean in memory of loved ones.

I wouldn’t try to explain the ceremony in detail because this website does a much better job than I could.  The gist is that it’s an inter-faith ceremony meant to bring people together in love, peace, and remembrance.  And we knew we wanted to be a part of that.

We were told to get there early if we wanted a lantern because they start handing them out at 10am.  The ceremony wasn’t set to begin until 6pm, so we planned for a day in town.

We got started an hour later than we intended (shocker!), but we made it down there around 11.  Thankfully, the convention center was offering free parking, so we took advantage of that and then headed down to collect our lantern.

The line looked sort of long, so we pulled out our lunch and ate while we waited.  But as it turned out, we made it into the request tent within 20 minutes and we were sitting down decorating our lantern in no time.

The kids were given cards to draw on just for fun, but they weren’t included in the lantern release.  (Our kids pretty much drew anything and everything relating to Minecraft on their cards.)

We decided to honor my Grandma (who passed away in 2009) and my brother (who passed away in early 2013).  Audra also wanted to include my mom & stepmom’s dogs who all passed away in the past few years – our kids were close to each of them.

We picked up our decorated lantern, but kept it disassembled so it’d be easier to carry in the tote bag they provided.  And since we had six hours to kill, we decided to visit the Aloha Tower which was about two miles away.

And I made the kids take pictures along the way.

We packed plenty of food, but when we saw this cart, we stopped to let the kids pick out some frosty treats.  It was a scorcher of a day.

They each got the cookies and cream flavor, and they made as big of a mess as possible.  And of course I brought everything in the world…except napkins.  Oops.

Every time we set out on one of our adventures, I’m reminded of how thankful I am to have these three amazing children.  Part of it is that they’re just getting older and smarter, but they really are good kids.  And I love that they’ve learned that their complaining isn’t going to stop us from exploring.  So they just try to enjoy the ride.

We made it down to the Aloha Tower, and we walked down to one of the piers.  This huuuuuuge ship was leaving port so I made the kids pose in front of it.

But as far as the Aloha tower, it was kind of a bust.  All of the stores around it were closed off for construction.  But at least we got to go up to the top!

The views of Honolulu were pretty great.

We even got to see a billionaire’s yacht.  The kids all want one now.  I figure with James’s next pay raise we should be able to get each one for their birthdays.

We also got to see a plane taking off and that was fun.  We see tons of different kinds of aircraft every night when we take our walks around the neighborhood, but we are still obsessed!

After we were done staring at the ground from above, we filled up our (one) water bottle and decided to head back.  Again with the bad planning.  We brought four along for the day but left three in the cooler.  Which was in the van.

We played a little “follow the leader” on our way.  Austin was so excited that he lost his head.

We were all exhausted, hungry, and hot so we took a few breaks.

By the time we arrived back in the parking garage, we had walked over 8 miles.  You’d think the kids would be hating life, but we recently bought them each a pedometer.  They were totally loving checking their step count every mile or so.  Serious. Parenting. Win.
So at the van, we reloaded the daypack with our dinner supplies and grabbed a few towels.  We dropped off the umbrellas, exchanged our sneakers for slippers (flip-flops), and made sure we had two full water bottles for the rest of the evening.
We walked back to the beach park and walked around in a sun-induced haze trying to find a shady spot to have our picnic.  James spotted an area near the shower station and we couldn’t sit down fast enough.
I should note that the park was PACKED with families grilling out under pop-up canopies.  Here we were eating our healthy egg salad sandwiches while we had to smell all of that deliciousness.  It was kind of torture.  But our dinner was good too.

We had two hours to kill, so we just hung out and people watched.  Oh, and we got wet from a few light showers.  Shoulda brought those umbrellas!

Austin had fun running around and rolling on the ground.

We finally gathered up everything and moved onto the sand and waited for the ceremony to begin.  The people just kept filing in and I began to feel a bit claustrophobic.  But I knew everyone around me was feeling the same way, and we enjoyed listening to the stories and music that were played.

And just before the lanterns were released, Her Holiness Shinso Ito (who is the head of Shinnyo Buddhism) spoke a few words.

We smashed together for a family selfie with our lantern.

And then we watched as the lanterns started being released.  With all of the people in front of us, you’d never know that we were only about 15 feet from the water.

We finally made our way to the water’s edge and I asked the kids to come with me.  James stayed dry along with our bag.
You can see how much Aidan was enjoying this.

We had to wade waaaaay out to get through the crowd of people.  You can see that Audra was chest-deep.  The good news is although we weren’t wearing swimsuits, we did plan to get wet.  We all wore thin clothing so the walk back and ride home wouldn’t be awful.

Anyway, it was a pretty special moment when Audra let go of the lantern.

Seeing them all floating out was magical.

I love this one.

We then made our way back to the shore and James.  As we were walking away, I caught a glimpse of the canoe carrying the “parent lanterns”.

We were all soaking wet, but I told Aidan that I was sure it meant a lot to Granny and Uncle Jared that he waded through the water for them.

(In case you’re wondering, the lanterns are all collected to be re-used for the following year.  Also, the base is foam and there is a little acrylic rudder that sticks in it to do…something.  And we also figured out that getting there super early was not at all necessary.  At 5pm, there was no line and people were still getting lanterns.  You live and you learn.)

We quickly headed back to the van and were able to avoid most of the traffic home.  All in all, we walked nearly 10 miles for the day.  I guess my dream of doing a half marathon with the kids isn’t too far away from becoming a reality.

It was a great day, and I’m so grateful we were able to take part in a tradition so obviously important to the state of Hawaii and its people.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
Honu Happenings