The lei captures the spirit of aloha, but the aloha doesn’t only mean hello. It also means goodbye, and it can mean a final goodbye to those who have departed. In Hawaiian funerals, many of the funeral flowers are leis that are worn to the service as well as used elsewhere to symbolize the respect the attendees have for the person who passed away.
For Hawaiians, every important occasion is a good time for a lei. That includes the occasion of a funeral or memorial for a loved one. Many Hawaiians wear leis to funerals to show their love and respect for the departed. Funeral leis are also used to decorate the area where the service is being held. The leis can be draped around photos of the person being honored or can be draped over the casket as a sign of respect. Leis may be used to dress up a table at a service, or the funeral leis may be worn by family members.
When attending a funeral, giving the family members a beautiful lei is a way to have their funeral flowers around them, surrounding them with affection from the giver. This lovely gift shows the affection and support you have for the family of the deceased.
Leis During A Funeral Service
Various practices exist for incorporating the lei in funeral services. A prevalent method is to lay the lei around a photograph of the departed. As attendees arrive, the accumulation of leis around the image grows, manifesting a tangible display of love and respect enveloping both the family and the departed.
Moreover, attendees offer the lei to the deceased’s immediate family, placing it gently over their shoulders. This gesture symbolizes unity, conveying to the family that they are not isolated in their sorrow and assuring them of the collective support surrounding them.
Often, the family of the deceased will drape a lei over the casket. The traditional lei for this is the maile or ti leaf lei, especially if the deceased is male.
Leis After the Funeral Service
For many Hawaiians and those who have a love of the natural beauty of Hawaii, the show of respect doesn’t end with the wearing of a lei. A funeral lei is often left somewhere meaningful to honor the departed person. Many times, the lei is left in a place that was important to the person who passed. Another way to honor the deceased is to throw the lei into the ocean* in remembrance of the person who has passed. Sometimes, the flowers are taken from the lei and the loose flowers are scattered across the water to honor the departed person.
*String is not bio-degradable
What Is A Traditional Hawaiian Funeral Flower?
The Maile leaf or vine is revered for funerals and memorials in Hawaii. It is often presented as a Maile lei, and often considered the most appropriate choice for these somber occasions. Another traditional lei used at funerals is the Ti-leaf lei, styled similarly to the Maile Lei.
What is the most popular funeral flower?
Orchids are the most popular flower at a funeral in Hawaii. Orchids are a symbol of elegance and everlasting and eternal love. They can be presented as a lei, draped over a casket, tombstone, or picture frame, or as a gesture of sympathy to loved ones.
Maile or Ti Leaf leis are often seen at Hawaiian funerals draped over the casket or picture frame as a show of respect for the loved one, especially if they are male.
Choosing a Funeral Lei
There are many types of leis that are chosen for funerals, and no lei is wrong for a memorial service. There are a few types that are more popular for funerals, however. While some people prefer to honor the deceased with a fragrant flower lei, others want a lei that is made from leaves. One of the most popular leis for funerals is the maile lei. This open-ended lei is made from a vine and has a sweet smell. This was once the most revered type of lei, and is still a highly respected type of lei because of its long history on the islands. Another popular type for funerals is the ti-leaf lei. This type of leaf is considered a good-luck leaf, and it makes an attractive and elegant lei.
The pikake lei is one that has a lovely scent and a beautiful look. Giving a pikake lei is a sign of friendship and love. The puakenikeni lei or tuberose lei are another common type that is appreciated for its cute appearance as well as its sweet smell. A lei of hibiscus, rosebuds or orchids are also lovely ways to honor the deceased and to tie into the sacred traditions of ancient Hawaiians. Any funeral lei you choose shows how much you care about the deceased and those who are attending the service in his or her honor.