The Month of May is the Month of Leis!

May Day (May 1st) was always the day that we would celebrate with May Day programs and flower leis!

Lei stand and Honolulu International Airport

Somehow over the years things have changed. People have started scheduling May Day programs throughout the month instead of just on the 1st. When I say people I am referring mainly to the schools. It is the student performances that make up the May Day programs. Some hotels and entertainers may have a program or two, but the keiki (children) are the ones who attract the crowds. We’ll get to cover some of that this month too.

Leis at Honolulu International Airport

I promised we would talk about leis this month and I have not forgotten! The leis you see throughout this post are from the one place that I know I can always get full pictures without any problem — Honolulu International Airport. Friends, family, dignitaries, anyone who is either coming to or going away from the islands needs a lei! So, the airport is always well stocked.

The custom of giving leis may have come to us via the the early Polynesian travelers who sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii on canoes. Flowers were not the only thing used to make leis. Looking at the pictures we have here, there are kukui nuts, tea leaves, ferns and flowers. Back then they may have used any of these things or they may have used shells, seeds or feathers.

More leis at the airport

As time goes by, the lei crafters become more creative. They intertwine the flowers with tea leaves and with other flowers to give some contrast to the color and style of the lei. In some extreme cases they have started to use spray paint to enhance the overall impact of the leis. The shock factor works well when someone is in a hurry and wants to make a statement with their gift of aloha!

In modern times we continue to take these things a step further. Sure we make leis out of the aforementioned items, but we also make leis out of seeds, candy and money! Graduates are very appreciative of leis made out of money. Graduation is another busy time of year for the lei stands. That is what is given to graduates — leis, money, or both. The easy way around that is to make a lei out of the money!

Leis quickly became symbolic of Hawaii. They are a Hawaiian tradition and they are intrinsically woven into the culture here. They are beautiful, they smell good and they represent a profound, unspoken feeling between the giver and the receiver. The smell of carnations mixed with the beautiful scent of tuberose brings tears to my eyes. I always associate those scents with the airport and the memory of people leaving. We see them off at the airport with hugs, kisses and sweet-smelling flowers. Then we cry as only the fragrance lingers after their departure.  Of course there are those times when we may be breathing a sigh of relief too!

Leis rich in color and aloha

Anyone can wear a lei. Anyone can give a lei. They are a display of affection and should never be refused. It is also considered rude to remove a lei you’ve been given while in the presence of the one that has given it to you. Out of all the leis, perhaps the most fragrant, noble, significant, and even sacred gift would be that of the maile lei. It is not pictured in any of these pictures. Why? Because it is kept in the refrigerators until a buyer comes and drops at least $35 on the table to buy one.

Maile leis are not flower leis, they are leaves on a vine. They are so fragrant and regal that even today they are worn by grooms at weddings or by those chosen to portray royalty in pageants or other forms of entertainment. They are often entwined with flowers like pikake. I’ll get you a picture. I promise! I only wish I could provide the scent. Hmmm… that’s Apple’s next job — to make an ipod that can download fragrances!  Yeah, that’ll happen.  I gotta think about this dilemma.

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