As reported in This Week Publications's feature on Lei Day, "Many people have difficulty saying 'I love you.' In Hawaii, we get around the words by giving a lei," explains Marie McDonald. The renown lei specialist has won the grand prize at Oahu's annual Lei Day competition and authored the definitive pictorial history book on lei art, Ka Lei. "Giving a lei lets someone know you love, respect and honor them. Even though a floral lei lasts a short time, the thought behind it lingers."
Each of the major Hawaiian Islands has a lei, treasured as its own.
Hawaii - lehua. It's blossoms come from the `ohi`a lehua tree which grows on the slopes of the volcanoes on the Big Island. Its flowers, most commonly red but also found in white, yellow and orange, are sacred to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes.
Kauai - mokihana. Actually a fruit, the purplish berries of this tree which is found only on Kauai are strung like beads and often woven with strands of maile. The berries have a scent of anise and are long lasting.
Kaho'olawe - hinahina. Found on the beaches of Kaho`olawe, the stems and flowers of this silver-gray plant are braided together to form this lei.
Lanai - kaunaoa. The light orange thread-like strands of this parasitic vine are gathered in handfuls and twisted together to form the lei.
Maui - lokelani. The pink lokelani or "rose of heaven" is sweet scented and very delicate.
Molokai - kukui. The leaves and white flowers and sometimes nuts of the silver-green kekui, or candlenut, tree are braided together to make this lei.
Ni'ihau - pupu. White pupu shells found along the shoreline of this rocky island are pierced and strung on cords to form this lei.
O'ahu - `ilima. This yellow/orange lei is velvety, paper thin and very delicate. It is sometimes called the royal lei because they were once worn only by the high chiefs.
We hope that you enjoy your Lei Day whether you are in Hawaii or elsewhere.
Additional Reading and Credits:
A Pocket Guide to the Hawaiian Lei: A Tradition of Aloha
A book by Ronn Ronck. Published by Booklines Hawaii Ltd.
Compass American Guide: Hawai'i
A book by Moana Tregaskis. Published by Compass American Guides, Inc.
Hawaiian Flower Lei Making
A book by Adren J. Bird, Josephine Puninani Kanekoa Bird, J. Puninani ka Bird. Published by the University of Hawaii Press.
Hawaiian Lei Making: Set-by-Step Guide
A book by Laurie Shimizu Ide. Published by Mutual Publishing.
A book by Marie McDonald. Published by Booklines Hawaii. Currently out of print.