The History of the Lei in Hawaiian Culture

By March 1, 2019 About Hawaii, History

If you’ve ever been to a faux luau, you’ve likely worn a very modest imitation of a Hawaiian lei. It was probably made of plastic and is now in a landfill somewhere. Hawaiian lei are not made of plastic! Better still, they are biodegradable. If you take advantage of Waikoloa vacation rentals, one of the most iconic wearables that you will be exposed to is the lei. But how did the lei become a staple of Hawaiian culture? What are real lei made of? What do they signify? If you want to know the answers to those questions, keep reading!

What is a Lei?

When you come to the Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort, you will no doubt be given a lei—a real lei to commemorate your coming. What does that mean exactly?

A lei is a wearable garland wreath that is made of plumeria blossoms, pikake blossoms, and other flowers. Different flowers are used for different occasions. They are not made of plastic! The term lei translates to garland or wreath, but unlike Christmas decorations, the lei is meant to be worn.

Leis serve a number of roles in Hawaiian culture. They can be used as a sign of romantic affection, for honorary purposes, or hellos and farewells. Leis with red Lehua flower are made to honor Pele, the volcano goddess and matriarch of the Hawaiian people. Leis will be made of different flowers to commemorate different occasions or communicate specific messages.

Leis can be bestowed on birthdays, at graduations, during weddings, or just about any other major life event. The commemorate great moments in an individual’s life.

However, there need be no special event to wear a lei. You can make one yourself or purchase one and wear it around. No one will wish you happy birthday just because you bought the wrong lei.

Presenting a Lei

The presentation of a lei is done in a specific manner. The lei is held out to a recipient. The giver bows slightly and holds the lei above their heart. The lei was never placed on the neck of an individual the way a medal would be. The Hawaiians consider it bad manners and an act of aggression to hold your hands over someone’s head. So placing the lei around someone’s neck is a major no-no.

Disposing of a Lei

If you are presented with a lei, you must never toss it away in the trash. The act would be symbolic of casting someone’s love or affection aside. The lei, in this case, is a representation of their feelings for you. Leis should be returned to the earth, left on a tree, burned, or buried. In that way, they become part of the cycle of nature.

Come Get Your Lei at Waikoloa Vacation Rentals

Kolea Vacation Rentals offers a number of great options for parties of all sizes and at rates you can afford. It is the perfect spot for your honeymoon, a vacation with the family, or an excursion with friends. We have accommodations that will suit parties of up to six. Contact us by phone or online and book your room today!