Painting memories of a Lantern Ceremony

Painting memories of a Lantern Ceremony

One of my favorite summer traditions living here in Hawaii is attending an Obon Festival at least once during the season. The season traditionally starts towards the end of June and runs throughout mid August. There is an amazing ceremony every year on Memorial day at Magic Island in downtown Honolulu that really starts it all.

What is an Obon Festival? Well, it is one of Japan’s most well-known holidays and here in Hawaii they are a huge part of summer fun and tradition. The “Bon season” is an important part of the culture of the islands. Our newspaper publishes lists of the various locations of Bon Dances and Festival events all around Oahu …and on the neighbor islands too. My family and I circle the ones we want to attend most and try to add new ones each year.

There are two ways to translate Obon. One translation is the Lantern Festival or another is the Festival of the Dead. Obon is a day to honor those family and friends who have passed away. At most Bon Dances there will be a drum tower, Taiko drummers, and dancers dressed in traditional clothing dancing together to the music all around the tall drum tower that is ringed with colorful paper lanterns.

Some of the Obon festivals include the very special floating lantern ceremony. Paper lanterns are written on, then lit and released into the waves where they float out to sea, symbolically representing the ancestral spirits’ return to the other world. I find this part of the evening the most magical of all. I wanted to capture the feel of the lanterns in the waves, the dramatic bobbing up and down in the waves and the way the points of light disappear where the ocean meets the sky. If you never have felt this feeling, I hope you get to experience one of these festivals at least once. The memory of it will stay with you forever.

This original painting is for sale and displayed in the Fine Ass Chocolate and Coffee store in Ka’a’awa. If you are interested in purchasing the painting you can email me at: or call the store at 808-237-1213 and let them know you are interested in “Obon Lantern Festival”. This is the original painting and no duplicates will be made.