Wherever you are traveling to, it’s pretty likely that you will run into customs of your destination. Customs and traditions of different lands is part of what makes a destination so special and unique. Hawaii is no exception. In fact, Hawaii has many customs dating back hundreds of years that are still in practice today. One of which is the Hawaiian lei tradition.
The origin of the Hawaiian lei goes way back to the early Polynesian settlers from Tahiti. These settlers made leis from flowers, shells, seeds, feathers, leaves, bone and teeth and were worn for several different purposes. One reason was of course for physical attractiveness. Donning a beautiful flower lei is much like wearing a fine piece of jewelry. Certain types of leis held more significance than others. The Maile lei constructed with the Maile vine was used to signify agreements of peace between tribal chiefs and their people, putting an end to feuds or disagreements keeping tribes from living harmoniously with each other.
Later, as tourism became popular in Hawaii the custom of welcoming visitors to the islands with a lei was born. In the early 1900s, as tourists arrived by boat, lei makers welcomed tourists with an “aloha” and a fresh lei. Even locals returning from a journey elsewhere were welcomed home in the same manner. It is said that during this time, as visitors left the islands, they would throw their leis overboard after departure, returning them back to the islands.
There are some things to know about the Hawaiian lei when visiting the islands today. While there aren’t too many rules to worry about breaking, it is important to know that the gift of a lei is a sign of kindness and goodwill. Never refuse a lei that is offered to you as a gift. A lei offered to you should be welcomed and celebrated. It is also considered quite rude to remove a lei from your neck while still in the presence of the person who gave it to you.
Today, leis are given as gifts for many special occasions. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and graduations are celebrations that often include a special lei in Hawaii. Leis are a great Hawaiian tradition symbolizing honor, affection and peace. On your next visit to Hawaii, be sure a beautiful Hawaiian lei is included and made part of your Hawaii experience.