The Early Hawaiian Leis

In the early 1900s also know as the “Boat Days” vendors would line up to welcome returning locals or new visitors to the islands. They carried many different Hawaiian flower leis for the arriving boats. The term “Boat Days” came about from the early days of travel, way before commercial airlines, people would visit the islands by sea. The voyage by sea still continues to this day, and maintains the greeting traditions, with some improvement. Cruise ships are greeted with music of the islands, hula dancers and of course a floral lei. Majority of the flower leis are made up of plumerias of assorted colors. As the tropical plumeria is placed over your shoulders you will notice the sweet aroma that drifts to your nose. The exotic tropical flowers add an impressive greeting to paradise.

Hawaii Flower Lei

Hawaii Flower Lei's offer unique and fresh leis right to your door! These beautiful Hawaiian Leis will transport you to the Hawaiian islands.

When your time has come to an end in paradise it is said that visitors would toss their flower leis into the sea as the shipped passed Diamond Head. In hopes that like the Hawaiian flower leis they would return to paradise once more.

For these ladies Hula is not just a recreation, it's part of their life. Hula dancers start at an early age.

Hawaiian lei made out of yellow Plumerias.

Definition of Lei

The definition of Lei: a garland of exotic tropical flowers that are worn around the neck, head, wrist and ankles in Hawaii and parts of the Polynesian. A Hawaiian lei has a variety of social meanings depending on the occasion. The Hawaiian flower leis are wreaths made of leaves, vines and flowers.

History of the Hawaiian Lei

Before the Hawaiian flower leis became popular to island visitors, they held significant meanings. Around 500 AD Polynesians had countless trips to the Hawaiian Islands. On their extensive voyages they brought an abundance of supplies for survival. This included a variety of plant species for farming and the islands first introduction to the traditions of flower leis.

A lei was worn by the ancient Hawaiians to either distinguish themselves from others or simply to beautify themselves. The Hawaiian lei can be made from an assortment of materials including: feathers, leaves, shells, nuts, bone, seeds, teeth of different animals and the obvious, beautiful tropical flowers.

Of all the Hawaiian leis, the Maile lei, was considered the most vital to the islanders. Maile is a native vine that grows only in the rainforest. The dark green leaves contain a sweet pleasant fragrant that causes it to stand out from the rest of the floral leis. The Maile lei signified honor and respect, which is why it was given as a peace offering on the battlefield. When opposing groups wanted the peace proposal acknowledged, the chiefs would bind their allegiance. This procedure took place in a temple and both chiefs would intertwine the Maile vine. Once the vine was completely intertwined, the groups recognized the peace amongst them.

 In current times the Maile lei is used during wedding ceremonies to unite the bride and grooms loyalty to each other. The groom and groomsmen are the ones who wear the “open ended” lei. Other Hawaiian leis may be given for graduates, birthdays, anniversaries and other important celebrations.

 As you can see it is very common to receive multiple leis for graduation.

Symbolism of the Hawaiian Lei  

The significance of the exotic tropical lei to the Hawaiian culture is that the meaning represent the unspoken expression of “aloha”. Aloha can mean an assortment of things. Depending on the situation it can indicate love, joy, farewell, greeting or hope. According to the Hawaiian culture they have no restrictions to the symbolic meaning the Hawaiian leis hold. The idea is simple, even though the lei may only last a little while the thought is what will last forever.

What is Lei Day in the Hawaiian Culture?  

Lei day is a festivity of the Hawaiian culture or “The Aloha Spirit”. Lei day happens on May 1st of every year, also known as “May day is Lei Day”. On this special day the people are encouraged to wear a lei, but not just any lei. Each island is represented by a specific tropical lei, whether made of exotic flowers, seeds, fruit or even shells. People may also celebrate by giving each other exotic leis as presents.

In 1928 Dan Blanding wrote an article that recommended a holiday that focused on the Hawaiian culture tradition of creating and displaying leis. May 1,1928 was the first Lei Day that was held on the island of Honolulu. The islanders where encouraged to come out with their tropical leis. During the celebrations they had lei making demonstrations, music, hula, contest and displays of the variety of Hawaiian leis. Lei Day made such an impact that by the following year it was an official holiday that was celebrated throughout the different islands. 

Proper Etiquette of Wearing a Hawaiian Lei

* You can wear floral leis anytime of day. In Hawaii, it’s a very common sight to see locals and visitors wearing their colorful leis as they go about the day.  

* Purchasing or making a lei for yourself is ok. After making my first one, I found it extremely rewarding…..and super simple.

Learn how to make your own fresh flower lei.

* Hawaiian locals usually have a lei on hand to wear for special occasions. Nuts, seeds or shells are common choices.

* Proper wearing of the lei: should be draped over the shoulders hanging down both in back and in front.

* Always accept a lei. This is a celebration of the person’s affection to you.It would be considered rude to take the lei off in front of the person who gave it to you. If you must remove it, do it discreetly.



New! Comments

Leave me any questions and comments in the box below.