Lei Day is a celebration of Hawaiian culture or the aloha spirit. Lei day was established as a holiday in 1929. People commonly celebrate by giving gifts of leis to one another. Schools also put on plays and elect a Lei Day court of Kings and Queens to represent the different islands. The celebration begins on the morning of May first every year and continues into the next day.
The importance of the lei to the Hawaiian culture is that it is meant to represent the unspoken expression of aloha. The meaning of aloha can be interpreted in various ways. Depending on the occasion it can stand for farewell, greeting, love, hope, or joy. Each island has its own symbol that is composed of a color and a flower.
We hope that you enjoy your Lei Day whether you are in Hawaii or elsewhere!
- Hawaii: Lehua. Its blossoms come from the `ohi`a lehua tree which grows on the slopes of the volcanoes on the Big Island. Its flowers, most commonly red but also found in white, yellow, and orange, are sacred to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes.
- Kauai: Mokihana. Actually, a fruit, the purplish berries of this tree which is found only on Kauai are strung like beads and often woven with strands of maile. The berries have a scent of anise and are long-lasting.
- Kaho'olawe: Hinahina. Found on the beaches of Kaho`olawe, the stems and flowers of this silver-gray plant are braided together to form this lei.
- Lanai: Kaunaoa. The light orange thread-like strands of this parasitic vine are gathered in handfuls and twisted together to form the lei.
- Maui: Lokelani. The pink lokelani or "rose of heaven" is sweet-scented and very delicate.
- Molokai: Kukui. The leaves and white flowers and sometimes nuts of the silver-green kekui, or candlenut, tree are braided together to make this lei.
- Ni'ihau: Pupu. White pupu shells found along the shoreline of this rocky island are pierced and strung on cords to form this lei.
- O'ahu:`Ilima. This yellow/orange lei is velvety, paper-thin, and very delicate. It is sometimes called the royal lei because they were once worn only by the high chiefs.