Posted by: kauaikolea2 | February 26, 2012

Hawaiian Lei Traditions


Lei is a Hawaiian word for a garland or wreath.  More loosely define, a leis is any series of objects such as flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers and even some teeth of animals strung together with the intent to be worn. The most common concept of a lei in Hawaiian culture is a wreath of flowers draped around the neck presented upon arriving or leaving as a symbol of affection.

The lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who took an incredible journey from Tahiti, navigating by stars in sailing canoes.  With these settlers, the Hawaiian lei tradition was born.

The ancient Hawaiians used to wear them to beautify themselves and distinguish themselves from others.  The Maile lei was perhaps the most significant.  Among other scared uses, it was used to signify a peace agreement between opposing chiefs.

One should know when receiving a lei for the first time, there is some lei etiquette. A lei should be a welcomed celebration of one person’s affection to another. Therefore, always accept a lei, never refuse. The proper way to wear a lei is gently draped over the shoulders, hanging down both in front and in back. It is considered rude to remove a lei from your neck in the presence of the person who gave it to you, so if you must, be discreet.

In modern times, a lei is usually given with a kiss – a custom which began in World War II. Traditionalists, however, give a lei by bowing slightly and raising it above the heart, allowing the recipient to take it, as raising the hands above another’s head, or touching the face or head, is considered disrespectful.

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