A small crowd gathers around a tiny pond connected to Arrington Lagoon. Credit: Adina Keeling

Glowing lanterns floated in the Arrington Lagoon on Tuesday evening in a ceremony to recognize the community’s many losses in the past two years while uplifting the spirits and heritage of many those who came to celebrate culture. 

Yusuf Shelia tests out his floating lantern. Credit: Richard Cahan

“May these lanterns that we light be a blessing, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, to the ability for us to continue to go on but not unchanged, not unmarked, not unmarred,” said the Rev. Michael Woolf of Lake Street Church of Evanston to the crowd gathered at the lagoon. 

The lanterns also showcased Evanston’s multi-generational artistic talent, as each one bore images and words drawn by many community members.

The water lanterns, which first appeared in the Han dynasty in China, are a symbol of sending away problems and losses and saying good-bye to disasters, while welcoming happiness and peace into your lives, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Kids Create Change, the nonprofit that organized the event, coordinated several lantern-making workshops earlier this month where community members decorated and constructed the lanterns. For those who did not attend a workshop, organizers also set up a decorating station at Arrington Lagoon.

“Today is the last day of Asian South Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so we are celebrating that as well,” said Melissa Raman Molitor, one of the organizers. She said the ceremony was inspired by the many lantern festivals celebrated throughout Asia.

Karly Kaihara poses with her lantern, which she decorated with an image of her family tree. Credit: Adina Keeling

Karly Kaihara attended the ceremony with her family. She decorated the four sides of her lantern with a drawing of a family tree, a piano, a heart and an inscription with her Japanese name. 

Her father, Glen Kaihara, said the family attended a similar ceremony in Lincoln Park two years ago, and Karly was eager to decorate and light another lantern. “She loves art,” he said. 

“To be human is to be here in a community, and that’s the most important thing that we can do in this season of loss,” said Woolf.

Community members watch their lanterns float in the lagoon as the sun sets. Credit: Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

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