Thousands gathering in Honolulu to float lanterns

By AUDREY McAVOY | May 30, 2011 | 7:59 PM EDT

HONOLULU (AP) — Thousands are gathering at a Honolulu beach to float candlelit lanterns on the ocean to remember loved ones and pay tribute to ancestors.

The annual Memorial Day ceremony is organized by the Japanese Buddhist sect Shinnyo-en. Now in its 13th year, the event is expected to draw about 40,000 people to Ala Moana Beach Park on Monday.

In a year marked by natural disasters, the thoughts of many are expected to be on friends and family who lost their lives in the March 11 earthquake and tsunamis in Japan and the tornadoes that ripped through parts of the U.S. mainland in recent months.

Participants write the names of those they are honoring and a short message on the lanterns before setting them in the water at sunset. Some write prayers, others write poems.