The Floating Lantern Ceremony has taken place in Hawaii on Memorial Day every year since 1999. I have watched this ceremony on TV for the past couple of years and have wanted to attend but the crowds (approx 40,000 people) have always kept me away. A friend of mine talked about wanting to go and so we decided to go together, along my friend's niece who was visiting and another friend of hers.
We got there around 3:30, parking across the street at Ala Moana Center. We thought it was too late to get lanterns since people start lining up around 5 in the morning. Lucky us! There were sill some lanterns left. After we picked up our lantern, we went to one of the tables set up to write messages to our loved ones who have passed away.
The ceremony started at 6 pm. There were big screens set up at different points down the beach. We found a spot near one of the screens. The ceremony was a combination of Japanese music (taiko drums and other instruments), Hawaiian music & hula, and Buddhist chants.
At the end of the ceremony, we put our lanterns together, sticking the four sides of the paper lantern onto the little foamy boat shape, putting the rudder in, and then putting the candle in the hole in the center. Volunteers were scattered up and down the beach ready to light each candle. Everyone walked down to the water to float their lanterns. I had no idea just how far I was going to have to go in the water. I thought maybe up to my knees but I ended up walking into the water up to my waist!
It was a very moving ceremony. I am really glad I went. Here is a link that contains more detailed explanation of the ceremony. The website also recently added photos of the lanterns and a video of the ceremony.