"A Festival for the Dead is held once a year in Japan. This festival is a cheerful occasion, for on this day, the dead are said to return to their homes and they are welcomed by the living. As they are expected to be hungry after their long journey, food is laid out for them. Specially-made lanterns are hung outside each house to help the dead to find their way. All night long, people dance and sing. In the early morning, the food that had been laid out for the dead is thrown into a river or into the sea as it is considered unlucky for anyone living to ear it. In towns that are near the sea, the tiny lanterns which had been hung in the streets the night before, are placed into the water when the festival is over. Thousands of lanterns slowly drift out to sea guiding the dead on their return journey to the other world. This is a moving spectacle, for crowds of people stand on the shore watching the lanterns drifting away until they can be seen no more."
The paragraph describes the festival in simple present tense except in the phrases "had been laid out" and "had been hung". Why the past perfect here? What are the reference times for these two events? Can we say "were laid out" and "were hung", or, "have been laid out" and "have been hung", or, "are laid out" and "are hung"?