Leis are a joy to receive and are fun to give as gifts. They can be given for virtually any occasion to add a special touch. Whether it’s a birthday, an achievement at work, a graduation or simply a lovely night out, a lei adds the beauty of flowers to it as well as a fresh scent and the spirit of aloha. However, there are rules to giving and accepting a lei.
Accepting a Lei
When a Hawaiian lei is presented to you, it’s important to always accept it. Refusing a lei is a social faux pas that you can avoid by always graciously accepting a lei when it is presented to you. A lei is often presented with a cheek kiss, and it’s important to smile and accept both. If you don’t want your kiss on the cheek, you can substitute a hug in thanks for your gift of the lei. For those who have a sensitivity or allergy to flowers, slipping the lei off discreetly with an apology is an acceptable way to handle the situation. Another acceptable gesture for those who can’t wear a lei is to hand the lei off to your spouse.
Giving a Lei
In today’s Hawaii, a lei is given to another by placing it around the recipient’s neck. This gentle gesture comes with a kiss on the cheek for the recipient. Another way to present a lei is for the giver to bow forward while holding the lei. This allows the recipient to take it and place it around their neck themselves. In Hawaii, there is a special type of lei that is given to pregnant women. An open-ended lei is considered the only type for a pregnant woman, as the closed type is considered unlucky for the baby. Another way to honor a pregnant woman is to present her with a head haku instead of a lei that goes around the neck.
Airport Lei Greetings
One of the first places many people see leis being given is at the airports of Hawaii. Greeting those who land on one of the Hawaiian islands is a common practice and a welcoming gesture. Many people bring a lei to the airport when they pick up their loved ones or colleagues. This custom brings the beauty and fragrant smell of Hawaii right to those who arrive for an instant, warm welcome to this lush land.
Wearing a Lei
A lei can be worn by anyone, and it is appropriate for any occasion or for when there’s no occasion at all. When wearing a closed lei, keep it on the shoulders. Half of it should hang down the front while he other half hangs down the back. When wearing an open lei, the center should be behind the head. Both ends should hang down the front loosely.