May Day is Lei Day in Hawai’i.

May Day (May 1st to celebrate spring) holds a special significance in the Land of Aloha. Because May Day is Lei Day in Hawai’i! A holiday to honor the tradition of sharing or giving a lei was the brainchild of poet Don Blanding, known as the “Poet Laureate of Hawai‘i.” In 1927 he came up with the idea of a uniquely Hawaiian holiday that everyone could celebrate, Lei Day

The custom of weaving and wearing flower leis originated with the Hawaiians. The tradition of the lei to share, honor, show affection, as part of cultural ceremonies, show rank or instill peace was an important part of Native Hawaiian culture. The below storyboard says it nicely:

(From Honolulu.gov, 93rd Lei Day, 2022)

The first Lei day was held in 1927 and the slogan May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii was born. In tribute to the first Lei Day Festival Leonard “Red” Hawk composed the famous song with the same name as the slogan. The song has become one of the most beloved tunes played every year at multiple Lei Day events. In 1929, the governor of Hawaii gave official recognition to this holiday.

Here is a beautiful rendition shared by the Wahine (women) of Ukraine. It was made during the the pandemic–and far better times–by Ukrainian students of Moana Hula Studio, Hawaiian Dance School. God Speed wherever they may now be.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawai‘i

(music by Leonard “Red” Hawk, lyrics by Carol Colombe)

Land of the flowers, of flow’ry bowers,
In her gay dress she appears
A sweet happy maid, may her dress never fade
As she carries this day through the years

May Day is Lei Day in Hawai`i
Garlands of flowers ev’ry where
All of the colors in the rainbow
Maidens with blossoms in their hair
Flowers that mean we should be happy
Throwing aside our load of care, Oh!
May Day is Lei Day in Hawai`i
Lei Day is happy day out there.

© Leidy B.B. Google

Postscript: While living in Hawai’i some 16 years, I somehow acquired the unofficial task of presenting leis to visitors to the islands and our office. I worked adjacent to Honolulu IAP (5 mins tops.) Gradually, I found myself with requests from friends, family, friends-of-friends, and peopled I’d never heard of (but who name dropped) to “please, please” meet their party at the airport and lei them! Being Kama’aiana (local) I could get a fresh plumeria or pikake flower lei for $4-$6 bucks. Well it got to be routine and I often ended up driving folks to their Waikiki hotel and sharing a Mai Tai…or two. Thinking back it was an honor and one of my fondest memories of living on the Islands.

“May your entire journey be on the sunny side of the road”

Keeper of The Keys, 1932, Chapter 18

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