This past Saturday evening, the Morikami Museum’s famous Lantern Festival celebrated a sold-out event. Honoring the spirits of ancestors past, the festival ranged from 3 to 8 p.m. and coincided with a full moon. The traditional Japanese ceremony attracted many visitors, as the gardens overflowed with festivities, food and festivalgoers.
In addition to the $12 entry fee, guests could purchase lanterns for $10 each and tanzaku slips for $1. Names of the deceased were written on the slips and were later set ablaze. In the 500-year-old Japanese Buddhist tradition, both lanterns and tanzaku slips symbolize guidance for visiting spirits, as they leave Earth for the other world once more.
In a lighter mood, the family-friendly festival offered performances throughout the evening of Japanese folk dancing and taiko drumming. While waiting for the lantern display at 7:30 p.m., guests were encouraged to try Japanese and American dishes like vegetable tempura and more familiar hamburgers. Tea, plant and craft vendors were also spread out amongst the grounds.
For children, the festival provided several booths of games and crafts. A sumo wrestling station was set up for more adventurous guests, while the creatively inclined could make DIY maple leaves in the spirit of fall. Lunar poetry also took place as a group renga poem, with each participant adding his or her own lines to the mix.
Upon nightfall, the blazing lanterns floated across Morikami’s lake. Glowing with good intentions, the tanzaku slips burned in unison on a Shoryobune, or hand-crafted boat. The festival concluded with a fireworks finale at 8 p.m., sounding off the end until next year.
Morikami Museum and Gardens is located at 4000 Morikami Park Road., Delray Beach. For more information, call 561/495-0233 or visit morikami.org.