Lei Day

Lei Day
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A day unique to Hawaii that celebrates the friendliness of Hawaii and the spirit of Aloha.

• General: Educational • General: History

The Hawaiian Lei is has become synonymous with the beauty of Hawaii and it’s people, so it’s not surprising that this special day is recognized. Hawaii Lei Day is celebrated on the first of May each year, and has given rise to the phrase, “May Day is Lei Day.”

It’s not uncommon to see locals wearing lei’s or while out in the community. It’s a day, where people enjoy the fragrance and wonderful colors of the Islands. There are special events where locals and visitors will wear different kinds of leis that are unique to each of the different islands. It’s fun to see some of the gorgeous lei’s that locals create to celebrate lei day. It’s a great time to visit Hawaii during this unique local holiday.

The Origins Of Hawaii Lei Day

The lei has always been an important symbol in Hawaii, imbued with much significance and meaning. Its origins can be traced to the Polynesian seafarers from Tahiti that held the Lei in high regard with their culture. In ancient times, if there was a conflict between warring islanders, the trading of leis signaled the arrival of an agreement to broker peace between the two.

Since then, leis have been used to commemorate special events, such as weddings and graduations. Leis are part of Hawaiian funeral services, where mourners will take a boat out to sea, and after pouring the ashes of a loved one in the ocean, the family will float their leis beside it.

The official celebration of Lei Day first occurred in 1929 – as a celebration of Hawaii. Before then, it was celebrated informally with much smaller events. The first official celebration of Lei day was held at the Bank of Hawaii, but then moved to town hall. Today, the largest event celebrating Lei Day occurs at Kapiolani Beach Park @ Waikiki. Lei Day is celebrated throughout Hawaii, and there usually is a lei competition held on the next day, May 2. It seems every year Lei day becomes more grand, as larger celebrations and events continue to grow. For visitors, it’s a lovely way to introduce people to Hawaii, and the beauty of the local people.

What Happens On Lei Day?

Parades are held on city streets, school children perform Hawaiian dances, and students take part in pageants. Lei design competitions and lectures on lei craftsmanship and history are also held at hotels and other places. There’s a lot of eating, dancing, singing, and marveling at each other’s leis.

Lei's Of The Different Islands

Each island has their own color and type of Lei for people to wear. It’s was common when the ancients paddled to visit the neighboring island to be greeted with the lei unique to that island.

Although Hawaiian's will wear leis of different varieties, these are some leis that are representative of each of the Hawaiian Islands.

Kahoolawe Island is gray and the hinahina.
Kaua'i is purple and the mokihana.
Lana'i is orange and the kauna'oa.
Maui is pink and the lokelani.
Moloka'i is green and the kukui.
Ni'ihau is white and a pupu shell, the only island without a plant as its symbol.
O'ahu is yellow and the 'ilima.

Hawaii Lei day is unique to the Hawaiian Islands and a beautiful way to show the friendliness of the Islands and the Aloha Spirit. You may also be interested in learning how to make your own lei as well as how to make a "one straw" lei.