Honolulu Memorial Day events are well worth attending if you’re lucky enough to be in Hawaii on the last Monday in May. This city has some of the most unique traditions anywhere in the US for celebrating Memorial Day, and the events in Honolulu include a fascinating Buddhist lantern floating ceremony at Magic Island, a formal ceremony at Punchbowl Cemetery, the decoration of soldiers' graves with leis, flower wreaths, as well as many festivities such as live music and fireworks.
Hawaii is one of only two places in the Pacific where many fallen American soldiers are buried (the other one is in the Philippines). Many of the soldiers fell at various locations in the Pacific during WWII, including places like Guadalcanal, Guam, Burma, Okinawa, Korea, and more, and were moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery.
This cemetery is located in the crater of an extinct volcano, known as Puowaina Crater, which resembles a punch bowl. The cemetery includes the Honolulu Memorial, a monument that honors those who fell in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Every year, at the Honolulu Memorial Day ceremony, flower leis and American flags are placed on the graves at the Punchbowl Cemetery. Other events, such as gun salutes, jet fly-overs, speeches, and a moment of reflection, are also held at the cemetery to honor the dead.
One of the most interesting and beautiful events in Honolulu on Memorial Day weekend 2016 is the Lantern Floating Ceremony on Memorial Day. The ceremony is hosted by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist sect, which provides free lanterns for people to float into the water. The floating lanterns represent the souls of the departed, and are a beautiful way for people to remember their loved ones, whether they were soldiers or not, on Memorial Day.
The Lantern Floating Ceremony is Asian in tone, though all are welcome, even non-Buddhists. The sight of the lanterns floating on the water at sunset is sure to inspire anyone to deep reflection. The lanterns are made of paper, on which personal messages can be written. You can then light a candle, set it in the lantern, and place it in a boat that floats into the water. Later, volunteers will collect the boats and reuse them then next year. This ceremony, held at Ala Moana Beach Park at Magic Island, also includes musical performances from famous singers as well as traditional Asian music such as taiko drumming.
There are many other events in Honolulu on Memorial Day weekend, such as performances by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, a Memorial Day motorcycle ride, races, military bands, and other festive events. You can also visit some of the military monuments on Oahu, many of which will have their own ceremonies and memorial services. Whatever you end up doing, Honolulu Memorial Day activities are distinctive, unique ways to celebrate Memorial Day 2016 in the US.