To an onlooker, the hundreds of people bearing small orange lanterns in Liberty State Park last night resembled nothing so much as a new-age religious pilgrimage.

Quiet spa-like music could be heard in the distance as the crowd walked reverently towards a meeting point on North Cove where they would launch into the water their LED lanterns inscribed with personal messages of “hope, love, happiness, healing, peace, and connection.” 

Explaining why he had come, a young man with a South Asian accent said he had participated before and it had brought him “inner calm.” And, indeed, calm seemed to rule the crisp autumn evening, with the participants lining up patiently for a chance to see their inspirational messages float away.

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According to the organizer, Water Lantern Festival LLC, the for-profit event is meant to create “a magical night that includes food, music and beauty as the lanterns reflect on the water.”

Floating communications don’t come cheap, however. Tickets range from $40 in advance to $56 on the day of the event.

The group says it donates an undetermined amount to, “a global nonprofit organization that helps people in need get access to safe water and sanitation through affordable financing, such as small loans.” is highly rated by Charity Navigator.

Lest anyone be concerned about pollution, the organizer says that the LED lanterns are recovered from the water following the event.

Aaron is a writer, musician and lawyer. Aaron attended Berklee College of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase. Aaron served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. He received a J.D....