peacelanterns.org, North end of Aquatic Park, Berkeley, August 5, 2017
The Peace Lantern Ceremony is held in the beginning of August to remember the anniversaries of the world’s first atomic bombings (August 6 and August 9). The tradition of floating lanterns are in honor of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to reaffirm our commitment to peace.
There was a great turnout for their 16th annual celebration. The ceremony was well organized and even ran a little ahead of schedule. There were numerous tables for crane folding, postcard writing, and the paper lantern decorating, all the while, listening to the history of the ceremony and the beating of the taiko drums, led by rather spritely ladies.
The wind picked up as the sun set, but the crowd was prepared with little tents and blankets. By the end of the taiko performance, the water’s edge was thickly lined; parents pointing out the boats to their kids. A haunting call of a wooden flute came onto the speakers as they readied the lanterns.
Boats glided by to guide the small groups of lanterns as they were released along the banks. The crowds gazed on well into the evening, the occasional flash from a camera or a child exclaiming when they’d found their lantern. As the night settled, the crowd dispersed gently, as if they, too, had become lanterns slowly drifting across the darkness.
While they advised against driving, we found easy parking down at the South end of the Aquatic Park and strolled up along the water. Arrive earlier to get a good spot and bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair to settle in. We hung out at the bank just south of the walking bridge, which was near one of the lantern launch areas, and found it to be a great spot for viewing.
One of the best places to be when in need of a late dinner is Downtown Berkeley, where there are endless food options all within a 10 mile radius. I got to share one of my favorite Nepalese restaurants with Carl, Cafe Tibet, where it felt appropriate to settle into an intimate and nurturing meal with the hostess reminiscent of my grandma. Just be prepared for a slow meal, as the momos (dumplings) take 20 minutes to cook, I promise they’re worth the wait!