One of the most celebrated events in Hawaii is Lei Day and it is celebrated all over the island country with great fanfare and fervor. Hawaii is an archipelago and is made up of a group or chain of eight islands which are the main ones apart from the smaller islands. The celebrations coincide with that of the worldwide celebrations of International Labor Day which falls on May 1st annually. The celebration is held the all day, starting at 9 am in the morning and sometimes it even spills over to the next day and people continue to celebrate the festival the next day too. The eight islands that make up the state of Hawaii have different ways of celebrating Lei Day.
The origin of Lei Day is said to be started in the year 1929 and established as a holiday then. The initiation of the Day came about from the custom of the Hawaiians of making lei and wearing it. This was the suggestion put forward by Don Blanding, a poet that a holiday be created in the name of this custom. But later, a writer named Grace Tower Warren, came up with a tag line- May Day is Lei Day as she suggested that May 1st be declared a holiday in keeping with the International holiday on May 1st. The first Lei Day was celebrated in the year 1928 on May 1st. The festivities are started off with each and every Hawaiian wearing the Lei. The festivals were initially held in the Courts and the Town Halls but later it was shifted to more spacious expanses like the outdoor parks one of which is the Kapi’olani Park, where it continues to be held even today.
The name Lei Day is derived from the lei flowers that are very native to Hawaii. It is a garland or a wreath of flowers and is part of the Hawaiian culture to exchange the garland or wreathe with friends, relatives and visitors. It can be made of any material, but it is usually made of flowers that are native to Hawaii.
Many activities are now part of the celebrations of Lei day and they include competitions and concerts. Some of the innovative competitions include lei making and in which the participants come up with great ideas of using different materials to make the lei. Hawaiians are known for their love for music and the celebrations clearly are a day set aside for music. People sing, dance and enjoy the day with a lot of music and dance.
The importance of the festivities surrounding Lei Day can be better understood if one were to understand the meaning of “aloha’ which means expressions of various emotions like love, joy and greeting. The word aloha has numerous connotations and each of them is associated with happiness. And the importance of the Lei Day can be understood from the symbolic meaning of “aloha” which is that “Lei lasts for a day while the thought is forever”.