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Thursday, September 23, 2010

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

My niece, Nicole, grew up on the Big Island and one of her favorite memories as a kid growing up in Hawaii was the state-wide May Day Celebration. In Hawaii it’s known as May Day is Lei Day.

If you missed the three-part interview with Nicole, you can catch up by looking at the past three postings about a kid’s life.

Mahalo, Nicole, for sharing this information!

While in school, students in Hawaii not only learn general subjects, but also a great deal about their heritage, history, and culture. They learn the Hawaiian alphabet and the correct Hawaiian pronunciation. Nicole told me it influences how she pronounces some of the names she comes across now while living on the mainland. Her husband kids her about the way she says some things. To learn more, search my blog for a past post about the Hawaiian alphabet and pronunciation.

Nicole’s favorite memory is the huge state-wide May Day Celebration. Every school-aged child participates. Each school chooses a king and a queen and eight princesses to represent each of the eight islands. Each grade performs a traditional, ancient Hawaiian dance, and there is a song which was written to commemorate this day.

The eight princesses wear the colors of the flower which represents their island:

Hawaii - lehua. It's blossoms come from the `ohi`a lehua tree which grows on the slopes of the volcanoes on the Big Island. Its flowers, most commonly red but also found in white, yellow and orange, are sacred to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes.
Kauai - mokihana. Actually a fruit, the purplish berries of this tree which is found only on Kauai are strung like beads and often woven with strands of maile. The berries have a scent of anise and are long lasting.
Kaho'olawe - hinahina. Found on the beaches of Kaho`olawe, the stems and flowers of this silver-gray plant are braided together to form this lei.
Lanai - kaunaoa. The light orange thread-like strands of this parasitic vine are gathered in handfuls and twisted together to form the lei.
Maui - lokelani. The pink lokelani or "rose of heaven" is sweet scented and very delicate.
Molokai - kukui. The leaves and white flowers and sometimes nuts of the silver-green kekui, or candlenut, tree are braided together to make this lei.
Ni'ihau - pupu. White pupu shells found along the shoreline of this rocky island are pierced and strung on cords to form this lei.
O'ahu - `ilima. This yellow/orange lei is velvety, paper thin and very delicate. It is sometimes called the royal lei because they were once worn only by the high chiefs.

The king for each school usually wears a maile lei and the queen is draped in `ilima leis. Historically, these leis were reserved for royalty.

Nicole has wonderful memories of this amazing celebration. Wish I could have been a kid participating in one of them!

Don’t forget to check back next week when I’ll post Nicole’s recipes.

Also, keep up with my blog, as I have baked, and will post, three different recipes for guava cake. Nicole and I both love it. Yum!

Until then, it’s a life in flip-flops!


  1. I wondered what type of plants they used to make the leis! I always learn something new about Hawaii when I visit. Hope you have a blessed weekend!

    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  2. Thanks, Raquel! Don't forget to check out the recipes next week-yum!


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