In Hawaii, the saying goes that May Day (May 1st) is Lei Day. RedHawk wrote a song about this custom in 1927, and the song is often performed as a hula today. But, there is much more to Lei Day than the song that is so familiar to Hawaiians.
In his 2001 May 1st address to Hawaii, Hawaiian senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka proclaimed that May Day is Lei Day in the state. This special Hawaiian day is non-partisan, non-religious and non-political. It is a pure celebratory day that was created for Hawaiians to celebrate their goodwill, their kindness and their spirit of sharing. They use Lei Day to celebrate the spirit of aloha that has been a symbol of the hospitality of the Native Hawaiians and the inclusiveness that they practiced with others.
The lei is more than just flowers strung together. It is a physical symbol of the aloha spirit that can be seen, touched and smelled. It is carefully made to be a perfect representation of that spirit and to create enjoyment in others. The lei is also a representation of the relationship between the person who gives the lei and its recipient. There are many materials that can go into making a lei, just as there are many things that go into a relationship. Berries, flowers, seeds and shells may go into one lei, or the lei may be made up of woven leaves and vines. The lei is woven together just as songs and poems are woven from beautiful and descriptive words that tell a story. Hawaiians have a lovely expression that a child is a kamalei- a lei that weaves the aloha spirit of the parents together.
Lei Day Proclamation
The Lei Day proclamation from mayor Harry Kim from the County of Hawaii proclaimed that May 1st was Lei Day in the county. He also proclaimed that the month of May was the county’s Month of the Hawaiian Lei. This proclamation came from the deep symbolism and tradition that has been passed down along with the lei to the people of Hawaii. It remains a symbol of the aloha spirit to Hawaiians, and the creation of the lei is one of their most cherished art forms.
During his proclamation, Mayor Kim talked about how renowned the lei is everywhere in the world and how important the lei has been to the people of Hawaii. The traditions of making leis have brought together many different materials, each with characteristics that make it unique and add to the rich tapestry that is the lei, Kim said. This beautiful symbol of the Hawaiian islands and its people reflects the diversity of the population of the islands with the lei’s diversity of materials. The proclamation of Lei Day brought together many of the lei celebrations that had occurred throughout the month of May to one day when everyone on the islands could celebrate this beautiful and meaningful tradition. Lei Day became a day to celebrate not only the traditions of the lei but the skillful process of making the many different types, each with its own skillful use of materials to create an enchanting result.
Whereas the Lei is an ancient art emblematic of the Hawaiian Islands and their People, and a symbol of Aloha and intercultural harmony renowned throughout the world;
Whereas the traditions, protocols, and the artistry of mo`olelo and kaona behind the Lei are an integral part of the art form, and worthy of perpetuation;
Whereas these traditions of lei making foster appreciation and love of the land, nature, and our island home, and encourage stewardship and responsible use of natural resources;
Whereas the Lei is made up of many diverse materials, each with its own unique characteristics which enrich the story and artistry as it is fashioned together into a truly special creation of beauty; just as the County of Hawai`i is made up of people of many diverse backgrounds, abilities and talents, whose unique contributions enrich our community and make it a truly special place;
Whereas the many and varied benefits of the traditions of the Lei are honored and celebrated at divers places and times throughout the Month of May;
NOW Therefore I, Harry Kim, Mayor of the County of Hawai`i do hereby proclaim May 1, 2008 asLei Day
In the County of Hawai`i and urge our citizens to enjoy the festivities today,
And furthermore, I do hereby proclaim the Month of May, 2007 as The Month of the Lei
In the County of Hawai`i and urge our citizens to reap the benefits of our traditional artistic expressions throughout this month and henceforth as we renew our commitment to draw strength from and celebrate our Hawaiian and Multi-Cultural heritage.
In witness WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused The Seal of the County of Hawai`i to be affixed.
County of Hawaii