This long standing holiday of the Hawaiian culture and the Aloha spirit has been celebrated statewide for over 85 years! The lei (flower necklace) in Hawaiian culture is a very powerful symbol of love and appreciation that is recognized throughout the world.
We who live here don’t get a chance to wear them much (except on birthdays and anniversaries) but we love to share them when friends visit or family returns from a mainland trip. It is a tradition cherished by everyone and brings a feeling of love and hospitality whenever one is given or received!
Many say Hawai’i tourism began in earnest with Mark Twain’s account of the islands written for a San Francisco newspaper in 1866. As steamships began bringing visitors across the Pacific to Hawai’i, lei vendors set up business at Aloha Tower selling lei to arriving tourists at the boat dock. Lei are now an integral part of the Hawaiian vacation experience.
Don Blanding of the Honolulu Star Bulletin was the first to suggest the idea of a lei day in Hawai’i. As a poet laureate at the paper during the mid 1920’s, he shared the concept with columnist Grace Tower Warren who expressed the idea of holding the celebration on May Day. She is credited with coining the phrase “May Day is Lei Day”. The first Lei Day was held on May 1st, 1928.
On May 1st nearly everyone in Hawaiʻi wears a lei. From the Keiki (children) in school to the top executives, everyone gets into the spirit of this uniquely Hawaiian day. For many Keiki, events include crowning of a Lei Queen, children and adult lei making contests and amazingly beautiful exhibits. Workshops include local artisans sharing there Aloha in the skills of flower, feather, Ti leaf, native plant and Haku (worn as a headband) lei making.
Kids Love Lei Day in Hawai’i
One of our favorite things about this holiday are the kids. Many people in Maui have some type of flowering tree in there yard. This allows almost everyone to make there own lei at some point. A Lei making needle and some nylon string or lei netting is all you need. The needle is long (around 8 to 10 inches) and a beautiful Plumeria lei can be strung in about 30 minutes once you have the flowers picked. Kids love making them as it is a group activity enjoyed by the whole family! Also just as kids on the mainland might set up a lemonade stand, kids on Maui string lei and sell them at the beach or a roadside stand. Why not if your yard is filled with flowering trees!
Most every elementary school on the island has a pageant with kings, queens and court represented. All grade levels of these Maui schools takes turns doing hula, ukulele and singing performances while showing off the flower lei’s that family and friends helped them create. Additional performances in shopping mall stages in Kahului and Lahaina round out the celebration. It is no wonder many visitors plan their vacations to coincide with this holiday!
For Maui’s Lei Day
Here are a few of the events happening for Lei Day in Maui
Lei Day Heritage Festival
Maui’s Bailey House Museum is located in Wailuku. This festival is one of the biggest Lei Day celebrations on the island! The museum is worth a stop any time of the year to learn about Maui’s history. Edward Bailey was one of the first foreigners to establish some key infrastructure in Maui and this house sits on the ancient compound of Maui’s last King – Kahekili. It’s a wonderful story and worth a stop if you enjoy museums.
Lei making demonstrations take place throughout the day and include a chance to make your own lei! Hawaiian music, dance and fashions round out a fantastic Lei Day celebration at this beautiful and historic location! It’s a wonderful venue to include in any Maui vacation with some wonderful holiday offerings and events throughout the year!
Maui Arts and Cultural Center
This annual Lei Day concert features Hawaiʻi’s most talented musicians and is sure to be a real Hawaiian music lovers treat. Kick back on the grass and enjoy the sights and sounds of Hawaiʻi’s heart and soul – Hawaiian music!
Springtime in Maui is one of our favorite times of the year and Lei Day is a beautiful way to start Maui’s busy summer season. If you’re ever in Maui for the first of May be ready to take in this wonderful Hawaiian holiday – May Day is Lei Day!