Leis were used regularly by the early Polynesians and settlers to the Hawaiian islands to honor their gods by twining greens into wreaths and making these as offerings. They also used the wreaths and flowered lei made of fragrant ginger blooms to decorate and adorn their bodies. Other fragrant greens used included maile and hala leaves which were used extensively to celebrate various rites, special occasions and daily wear.
This concept of giving a lei was then popularized with the influx of tourism on the islands around the 19th and 20th century. Presenting a lei during the arrival or departure of a love one was communicated as a sign of affection and aloha and still is used currently as a symbol of affection.
Leis are now made with different and aromatic flowers to include plumeria, jasmine, ginger, roses, gardenias, tuba rose and scented orchids to create aromatic scents and beautiful displays. Every flower and color is used now with different types of materials, seeds, shells and other greenery to create different looks and texture.
(A gorgeous tutu or grandmother wears and elaborate collection yellow, orange and red flowered leis at a hula performance in Hawaii)
Greenery leis above include greens of maile, ferns and seeds or pods, along with a very thick and aromatic plumeria lei above. Hula performances are typical of when leis are made fresh and used for adornment for a particular function or hula performance.
Lei day celebrations today in East Hawaii are marked with lei and craft demonstrations, live music and performances and other festivities celebrating this well loved tradition. It seems so appropriate for the first day of May to celebrate spring and a beautiful day by making a lei and giving to someone special in your life..
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