Lei day: a unique hawaiian celebration on may 1st

No Labor Day, May 1st in Hawaii is entirely dedicated to the traditional floral wreath, a symbol of local culture

While many countries around the world, including Italy, celebrate Labor Day on May 1st, in Hawaii, this date marks “Lei Day”, a celebration dedicated to the traditional floral garland known as “Lei”, typically worn around the neck or head. These garlands, now symbolic of Hawaiian culture, were historically worn by various social groups both for aesthetic purposes and to outwardly display one’s social class and status.

It was not until 1927 that Ruth and Leonard Hawk decided to honor this significant symbol of Hawaiian culture by dedicating an entire day to it each year. Since then, every May 1st, garlands are worn to celebrate the spirit of “Aloha”—that intangible yet palpable essence best exemplified by the hospitality and inclusiveness shown by the native Hawaiians to all people of goodwill.

Each Hawaiian island uses different flowers, leaves, elements, and techniques to make these floral crowns: The Big Island is famous for the red Ohia tree flower, while Molokai uses the Kukui tree flower, and Lanai features the yellow Kauna’oa.

The festival includes live music, parades, contests to award the most beautiful garlands, hula dance performances, displays of Hawaiian crafts, traditional food stalls, and school performances. There are also lectures on the symbolism and cultural significance of these garlands and workshops where people can learn traditional crafting techniques.

Sources: Lei Day/Honolulu

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