Well, what is Lei Day? As the Hawaiians say ‘May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii Nei.’
Lei Day is a Hawaiian cultural celebration of the that begins in the morning of 1st May every year and continues throughout the entire day. It was Don Blanding, a writer and poet, who first suggested that a holiday should be dedicated to the beautiful Hawaiian tradition of making and wearing lei. But it was Grace Tower Warren, also a writer, who suggested that the holiday should coincide with May Day.
The first Lei Day happened in 1928 and continues to this day. Lei Day is a colourful affair. The free public event features live music, a lei contest exhibit, hula performances, demonstrations, craft and food vendors. Each Hawaiian island has a different type of lei that is used for the celebration.
The island of Hawaii (or ‘The Big Island‘) has the beautiful red blossom of the ohia tree, called the lehua blossom, for its flower. The island of Maui’s flower is pink and called the Lokelani. The island of Oahu’s flower is the Ilima found all across the island and is golden yellow in colour. Molokai uses a green flower named the Kukui, whilst smaller island Lanai has a grassy flower called Kauna’o. The island of Kahoolawe uses the flower Hinahina which has a silver-gray colour.
It’s not all floral though! The island of Niihau’s “flower” is actually a shell called Pupu and Kauai has green mokihana berries and flowers.
If you’re lucky enough to be visting Hawaii during this time, you can find out more about the Hawaiian Lei Day celebrations at Hawaii.com. If you’re staying on home shores this May Day but still want to get involved in the bright Lei Day celebrations, why not try making your own lei with the basic instructions below?
Kids can also get involved in the fun with our Foam Flower Lei Craft Kit for 12, a great group craft idea.
Make a Fresh Flower Lei
- Collect medium sized flowers for your lei. Roses and carnations work well..You’ll need about 50 blossoms to make a 40″ (101cm) single strand lei.
- Cut about a 100″ (254cm) length cotton string, and fold it in half. Tie a large knot at the end as a “stopper” for your flowers as you string them. Remember to leave extra string below the knot as you will use this to tie the lei together when finished.
- Use a large needle to thread through the centre of the face of the flower straight through to the back. Carefully guide the flowers to the base of the string near the knot – never force the flowers, you can always move them farther down later.
- Keep threading until you reach your desired length. Then you could embellish your lei with a ribbon, or just leave it au natural