In the state of Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day. May 1st marks Hawaii’s nationally-recognized Lei Day — an annual tribute to a culturally iconic symbol. Celebrated by locals dressed in aloha attire, the custom honors the state’s natural production of tropical flowers in the crafting and wearing of the lei.
Passing and receiving of the lei is practiced in Polynesia. Original Hawaiian settlers continued this custom to the islands as a practice for all genders. In ancient Hawaiian times, commoners and chiefs of all genders wore lei. Certain lei such as the lei niho palaoa, made out of whale tooth and entwined human hair, was reserved for royal blood. Today, men and women wear and exchange flower lei on occasions like graduations, funerals, birthdays and weddings.
Lei Day began in 1927. Courtesy of Honolulu Star-Bulletin writer and poet, Don Blanding, the first Lei Day celebration was held on O’ahu and became a state-wide festivity two years later.