The lei that you see today was originally introduced to the islands of Hawaii by the early Polynesians crossing the seas by canoe or outrigger from Tahiti.
The ancient Hawaiians used leis as a form of decoration and to set themselves apart from others. The most significant ‘Maile Lei’ was used as a peace agreement between chiefs of opposing villages.
Todays leis are more commonly used by tourists as a form of greeting when they arrive in Hawaii
Visitors are presented with their lei and a warm ‘ALOHA’.
Leis are also used for special occasions including anniversaries, graduations, weddings and birthdays
A couple of rules to remember – never refuse a lei and it is considered rude to take your lei from around you neck when the person who gave it to you is still present.
The most common flower used to make a lei is the plumeria or frangipani, although, carnations, tuberose, orchids and pikake are also used intertwined with maile leaves and ferns.
Other leis can be made up of fish teeth, shells, bones, paper, fabric, feathers or even candy.
The disposal of you lei is very important. You should either return it to the earth by hanging it in a tree, burying it or burning it. Never put in the trash as this represents throwing away the love or aloha of the person who gave it to you.
If you would like to make you own lei while visiting the island of Molokai you can visit Molokai Plumerias at 1342 Maunaloa Highwary, Kaunakakai. For $25 you can stroll through the fragrant garden and pick your own plumeria flowers, learn how to make your own lei while learning of the importance of the lei in hawaiian culture.
Visit www.molokaiplumerias.com or telephone 808 553 3391 for opening hours.
The island of Lanai holds Lei Day celebrations in May showcasing locally made leis, lei making contests, workshops and craft shows.