April 26, 2020

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

Make a Lei. Share a Lei. Wear a Lei…

The custom of Leis was introduced to the Hawaiian islands by the voyaging Polynesians. Poet & author, Don Blanding, is credited with founding “Lei Day” in 1927 in Hawaii. In the early 1900’s when visitors to Hawaii came by boat, the lei vendors would set up their lei stands at the piers. Upon leaving the islands, visitors would sometimes throw their leis into the ocean, hoping that one day they too return. The tradition of welcoming guests with a lei has become an island tradition, as well as giving leis on special occasions such at graduation, birthdays, & anniversaries.

On May 1st, 1929 “Lei Day” was officially declared a Hawaiian holiday by Queen Liliukalani, last queen of the Hawaiian monarchy. It has become a day to celebrate the Hawaii culture of leis and to honor the former Hawaiian kings & queens. Each of the Hawaiian Islands has a treasured lei of it’s own. Kaua’i is Mokihana; O’ahu is Ilima; Moloka’i is Kukui; Lana’i is Kauna’oa kahakai; Mau’i is Lokelani; Big Island of Hawaii is Lehua; Ni’ihau is Pupu Shells; & Kaho’olawe is Hinahina.

We would like to share some of favorites from a May Day Lei Contest at the Kauai Museum.

May 1st is certainly one of our favorite days of the year because of the annual May Day Lei Contest on Kauai. Walter & Irmalee Pomroy founded the Kauai event in 1979 and it has become a signature event of the year. At the event, professional & nonprofessional lei-makers from Kauai display their fragrant & colorful leis, intricately woven from thousands of flowers & foliage. The art & creativity of the lei makers is always a thrill to observe, understanding that the elaborate leis took many hours to make.

“The flower leis cast on waters
with wistful & lingering hands
will drift to the shore with the trade winds
and rest on the sun gilded sands.

But leis of aloha are fadeless
their fragrance will never depart
So, cherish these garlands of romance
and weave them into your heart.” – Don Blanding