July 25th, 2015
The Festival of Lights, or Obon Festival, is one of those times of year that I love as a resident of the cultural melting-pot that is Hawaii. This is a centuries old Buddhist tradition that is held to honor the dead. I was privileged to attend my first festival as an observer about six months after settling in on Maui.
Every year local temples celebrate with vibrant decorations, dancing, food booths and crafts. Many also hold cultural bazaars, displaying art from both Japanese culture and Japanese-American history.
Obon is an annual Buddhist event held to pay tribute to and honor one’s ancestors who have passed on. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors’ spirits are able to return to this world in order to visit their relatives.
Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors’ spirits, obon dances are performed, loved ones graves are visited and offerings of food are made at altars and temples.
At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into the waters as guiding lights to lead the spirits back into their world. In Hawaii, a rope is used to keep the lanterns from ending up out to sea.