Already knew? Since 1929, the Hawaiian Islands, which are now part of the national territory of the USA, have celebrated May 1st as the Day of Lei, the Hawaiian Lei Day. This article examines what this is all about and why this Hawaiian day of honor deserves a permanent place in the calendar of curious holidays from all over the world . Because: May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii Nei.
What is lei anyway?
Lei (Hawaiian, pl. Nā Lei or Lei) is the name given to the typical Hawaiian necklace made of flowers, leaves, shells, etc. Such a necklace is traditionally either knotted, twisted or braided and can – depending on its type and length – have up to 1000 flowers include.
The tying and wearing of the lei can look back on a very long tradition. Today it is assumed that this goes back to the Polynesian settlers who settled the islands around 1500 years ago and – in addition to tools and food – also brought numerous plants with them to their new home. The first European reports about the floral wreaths come from the British Captain James Cook, who noticed them among the locals when visiting the Hawaiian Islands in 1770.
In Hawaii, the Nā Lei are both a status symbol or a festive insignia of high-ranking people as well as a typical gift for a variety of occasions. In this respect, the lei symbolizes gratitude, friendship, love, respect or affection. Today, however, the flower chains are mainly part of the tourist events.
Who started Hawaiian Lei Day?
Although Hawaii and its islands have a long and diverse tradition, Lei Day itself is a 20th century invention. Specifically, it goes back to a suggestion by the poet and artist Donald Benson Blanding (1894-1957) and the year 1927. With this local holiday, Blanding wanted to honor the Hawaiian tradition of making and wearing the lei.
While most sources agree that Blanding must be seen as the spiritual father of Lei Day, the idea for choosing the date did not come from him. This goes back to his colleague Grace Tower Warren, who proposed May 1st as a fixed date for this. Whether you are doing, however, the Finnish Spring Festival Vappu , the US Mother Goose Day or National Mother Goose Day or the day of the Batman debuts ( Batman Day) or the International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day (Mutatis mutandis : International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day) had in mind, I could not find out in the course of research.
When was Lei Day celebrated for the first time?
Lei Day received the status of an official Hawaiian holiday in 1929 and has kept it from then on. Since then, the saying goes on the islands: “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii Nei.”
On the other hand, it is less clear when exactly it was committed for the first time. While some sources speak of the year 1927, others refer to May 1, 1928, which corresponds to a newspaper article by the aforementioned Donald Benson Blanding.
How do you celebrate Lei Day in the Hawaiian Islands?
Lei Day is still dominated by Hawaiian culture and Aloha. Accordingly, the entire public life of the islands on this day is also dominated by the floral decorations.
The festivities usually begin on May 1st at 9:00 a.m. and continue throughout the day. As a rule, however, most public events end around 5:30 p.m. Traditionally, the actual Lei Day is followed by a Lei Contest on May 2nd.