Leis are a big thing in Hawaii, especially this time of year with the end of school and graduations. Graduation weekend, the plumeria trees for miles around were stripped, the grocery stores were out, and people were calling Oahu and the Big Island for more of every kind of flower.
“Ohana Day” a celebration of May Day/Lei Day took place at my school while I was on the Mainland lei-ing my daughter for her graduation, and I came back to school Monday having missed this important event featuring hula, chants, and a pageant of different skills being demonstrated by each class.
(BTW, rehearsal week for the big Day is utter hell with the behavioral kids- they refuse to do their hulas, run away from the chants, and generally wreak mayhem. Yes, those are my clients. I was a cat-herder missing a whip, rope or cattle prod, but doing pretty well with a big bag of leftover Easter candy)
“The leis of Old Hawaii were made of both semi-permanent materials – hair, bone, ivory, seeds, teeth, feathers, and shells; and the traditional flower and leaf leis – twined vines, seaweed and leaf stems, woven and twisted leaves, strung and bound flowers of every description.
Leis were symbols of love, of a spiritual meaning or connection, of healing, and of respect. There are many references to leis, or as the circle of a lei, being symbolic of the circle of a family, embracing, or love itself: “Like a living first-born child is love,
A lei constantly desired and worn.” ”
(Na Mele Welo, Songs of Our Heritage, (translated by Mary Kawena Pukui), (Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, Special Publication 88, 1995): Pg 45
One of my counseling students is learning Hawaiian crafts and culture from his grandma, and he made me this as a thank you.
What a beautiful modern interpretation of an ancient craft! I was so touched, and wear it proudly.
“Leilani,” the name of my heroine, means Heavenly Lei. A lei is a gift, a way of honoring. It’s such a part of life in Hawaii I forget the world over doesn’t celebrate this way. But as I wear my beautiful ribbon lei, I wish they did.
What are some of the customs you use to honor, celebrate and acknowledge?