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First Annual Southeast Asian Floating Lantern Festival

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First Annual Southeast Asian Floating Lantern Festival

Source:Honolulu Star Bulletin

*There is another later floating festival that has been going on for many many years but its mainly a Japanese tradition, however like many things in Hawaii it's very multicultural and attracts participants from all backgrounds

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Brian Faria placed a lantern in the water yesterday at the Southeast Asian Floating Lantern Festival at Magic Island. The festival was a benefit for the American Red Cross.

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Southeast Asians float lanterns in a display of religious tradition

By Diana Leone

[email protected]

WHEN Kanjana Thepboriruk was a little girl in Bangkok, she remembers seeing thousands of floating lanterns on the water during Loi Krathong, the Thai festival of hope and lights.

When her family moved to Madison, Wis., they celebrated the November festival by sliding their traditional floating lanterns onto the ice of frozen rivers.

It wasn't the same, Thepboriruk said at dusk yesterday at Magic Island, as she watched dozens of people slip floating lanterns onto the ocean at Hawaii's first Southeast Asian Floating Lantern Festival.

It was the first time that Thepboriruk, now 26 and a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Hawaii, has seen the ceremony on water since she was 10 years old.

As she stood with a chilled coconut in her hand and watched the little floating platforms of flowers, incense and candles on the water, Thepboriruk exclaimed, "I feel so Southeast Asian right now."

Immigrants from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia pooled their talents and traditions yesterday for the multicultural festival that involved food, sports and traditional dances and culminated in the floating of lanterns.

The event drew extended family and friends of Hawaii residents originally from those countries and some curious onlookers, some of whom decided to buy and float their own lanterns.

People gathered to place lanterns in the water yesterday evening at the Southeast Asian Floating Lantern Festival at Magic Island. In the traditional Thai ceremony as the lanterns float away, people offer prayers for a good year and ask forgiveness for sins.

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Variations of a fall festival of lights are observed in the majority Buddhist countries from which festival participants have come, said Tin Myaing Thein, a Myanmar native who co-chaired the event with Ichaya Danapong, a Thai native.

The $4,000 raised from drink and lantern sales at the event will be donated to the American Red Cross for victims of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.

We do this good thing for peace and tranquility in the world, said Than Htut Aye, also originally from Myanmar. The theme of the festival is thanks, luck, hope and renewal," he said, all needed in a year that saw "many natural disasters throughout the world, including the U.S."

Vatcharee Tongkatecha helped make 700 floating lanterns in the traditional Thai style for yesterday's ceremony. Artificial lotus blossom petals circle the Styrofoam base and fresh orchid blossoms decorate the interior of the lantern. Each is fitted with a small candle and three joss sticks.

Traditionally, the floating base of the lanterns were made from a slice of banana tree stalk. But even today in Thailand, the Styrofoam is used, she said.

As they float away, people traditionally offer prayers for a good year and ask forgiveness for sins.

Tongkatecha, 60, lives in Thailand, where she will return in January to care for her elderly mother. But she spent the past year in Hawaii visiting her son, an Air Force air traffic controller who will be going to Afghanistan in January.

When she released her own floating lantern, she didn't just pray for her son's safety, she said: "I pray for the whole world."

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