Sept. 18, 2019 By Allie Griffin
The popular Peace Lanterns Festival returns to the Long Island City waterfront this weekend to light up the East River in honor of International Day of Peace.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, organizers and participants will set afloat more than 100 lanterns from LIC’s Gantry Plaza State Park at Center Boulevard and 49th Avenue. This year’s theme is “Climate Action for Peace.”
Participants will decorate the lanterns, which are crafted from upcycled and compostable materials by HarborLAB, with words and images of hopeful climate actions for a peaceful and healthy planet. The lanterns will then be sent into the river at sunset.
The festival offers a range of free events prior to the lantern lighting from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., including lantern decorating, origami, face painting, henna tattoos, seedball (a seed, soil, and clay mixture meant for cultivating plants) making, African dancing, and kayaking.
From 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Meditate NYC will lead a group meditation and teach festival goers how to practice mindfulness and calming techniques from Buddhist traditions. Then at 6:15 p.m., there will be a series of speeches and interfaith prayers for peace before the lantern ceremony begins.
Speakers include elected officials, interfaith leaders, diplomats and scientists.
At 7:30 p.m., 108 decorated lanterns will be illuminated and released into the East River. The number 108 is sacred in Buddhism and represents the number of earthly temptations that hinder progress towards peace and enlightenment.
The Peace Lanterns Festival began in 2002, and was created by Erik Baard, founder and director of HarborLAB, and Toshikazu Kenjitsu Nakagakithe, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
For its first ten years, the ceremony took place by the Hudson River, given its proximity to Ground Zero, but was later moved to the East River and LIC waterfront.
The free event draws thousands of attendees and is organized by a number of groups including the Interfaith Center of New York, the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace, TF Cornerstone, New York de Volunteer and New York State Parks.
Event organizers are looking for additional volunteers. To volunteer as a face painter, henna tattoo artist, arts and crafts guide, seed ball maker, kayak program staff, or other roles, register here.