May Day Lei Day

May 1, 2023

Aloha and welcome to our little corner of paradise where the sun is always shining, the waves are always perfect, and flowers are always in bloom. Today we’re going to take a little journey back in time and explore the history of May Day in Hawaii.

May Day, the first day of May, has been celebrated in Hawaii since the late 1800s. The tradition of giving and receiving lei caught on and can be seen in sketches and photos for centuries in the Hawaiian culture. Originally known as Lei Day, it was a way to celebrate the Hawaiian custom of giving and receiving lei. As the tradition of lei became prominent throughout the islands wearing a lei represented wealth, royalty, and rank. Today, a lei is a symbol of love, friendship, celebration, honor or greeting. In essence, it is a symbol of Aloha.

The flowers used in lei making each have a special meaning and represent something different. Lei Day is celebrated throughout the state, but the biggest celebrations take place right here on the island of Oahu, where the Lei Day Festival is held in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Park (to learn more visit The festival features music, hula performances, traditional food and of course, lots and lots of lei.

If you are lucky enough to be presented with a lei, it is an honor, and you should not remove the lei in the presence of the person who gifted it to you. The proper way to wear a lei is gently draped over the shoulders so it hangs equally in the front and back. If you are Hapai (pronounced Hah-pie) or pregnant you must make sure the lei you are receiving is an open lei, or untied, as closed lei can be bad luck for the baby in the womb.

May Day in Hawaii isn’t just about lei. It’s also a time to celebrate the rich history and culture of Hawaii. In fact, most schools hold May Day programs beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school, where students are nominated to May Day court and each island is represented with members of this prestigious court. They work tirelessly to prepare their performance of traditional Hawaiian hula, songs and storytelling about each island and the representative flower of those islands. This tradition is celebrated with parents, grandparents, family, and friends in attendance to watch the annual May Day programs.

As you can see, Lei Day is not only filled with beautiful flora and fauna, heavenly floral scents, and hula, but as the song says, “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii, garlands of flowers everywhere.” Whether you’re here to simply soak up the sun, learn to dance hula, or make a lei, there’s no better time to experience the beauty and warmth of the islands. Mahalo, and we hope to see you soon!