The Hawaiian Lei – A Celebration of Island Flowers

Categorized as Oahu Vacation Information

Recently when I was visiting Oahu and staying in an absolutely wonderful Kailua Vacation Rental and still immersed in the wonderful fragrance of the plumeria lei I had been given at the airport, I decide I wanted to learn more about the Hawaiian lei, such a wonderful tradition that made me feel so welcome upon my arrival.

It turns out that in ancient Hawaii, respect and honor was bestowed upon someone by placing a Hawaiian lei upon their head and shoulders, which are considered sacred parts of the body.

Ancient Hawaiians utilized various materials for lei. These lei materials included ferns, flowers, seeds, vines, feathers, nuts,shells and even teeth. Lei were often made to pay tribute to the gods, and also to show reverence and give thanks.

Many introduced species began to be utilized for making lei after Western contact. The missionaries brought roses, and the Chinese brought pikake (Arabian jasmine) as well as pakalana (Chinese violet).

The jade vine, came from the Philippines, and the plumeria flower came from Tahiti. From Mexico came Bougainvillea. The lei became a strong symbol of the aloha of the Hawaiian people and continued to gain in popularity as all of the newly introduced flowers were woven into beautiful lei.

Today the lei is still a wonderful symbol of aloha and friendship and is a way to show love for another person. It is also a way to welcome someone, or celebrate a special event such as a birthday or wedding, or an anniversary.

Lei are also placed on people’s gravestones to show respect in their memory.

To show appreciation to the giver of a lei, a kiss and an embrace is often given to the receiver. If you make a lei for someone and think of them as you make it, then the lei will carry those expressions of your love.

Before World War II, Maunakea Street in Honolulu was a traditional lei selling area. This was also a floral center where lei sellers stood on the sidewalks. Another popular lei selling area was Honolulu Harbor, and when the luxury liners dropped off a new load of visitors the lei sellers would stand on the pier with lei draped over their arms.

As the ships rounded Diamond Head, departing visitors threw their lei into the sea in the belief that they would return to Hawaii if their lei floated back to the beach.

In Waikiki, lei were sold near such famous hotels as the Moana, Royal Hawaiian, and the Halekulani.

May Day (May 1) is Lei Day in the Hawaiian Islands, and everyone is encouraged to make and wear lei. In 1929, Lei Day became an official holiday, and today most schools celebrate Lei Day with festivals along with many other events that are held throughout Hawaii.

Now as I contemplate all of these facts about traditional flowers and leis of the Hawaiian Islands I am very grateful that I was given such great Oahu Vacation Information and was able to plan such a wonderful trip to the Hawaiian Islands. I am really enjoying my stay!