Lei Day

Lei Day: Why the celebration is so important in Hawaii

It’s International Workers’ Day here or Labour Day in America, but in the Aloha State of Hawaii, an island-wide celebration is taking place called Lei Day.

It was made an official holiday in 1929 and has become increasingly popular ever since. But why is it important and what does the day involve?

The significance of the lei itself

The lei is a visual representation of the word ‘aloha’, a word that means many things in the Hawaiian language, such as greetings but also more important implications such as love, laughter and hope.

To those who aren’t in the know, the lei is a type of garland made from flowers. To celebrate the day, Hawaiians often spend the morning making as many as possible. It is believed that in 2008 a mile’s worth was made. It’s important to note that once given a lei, it’s considered rude to refuse one or take it off in front of the giver. It is also customary to return the lei back to mother nature when you are done with it, so don’t throw it in the bin!

The lei is worn equally over the front and the back of the shoulders, not like a necklace
The lei is worn equally over the front and the back of the shoulders, unlike a necklace


The traditional dance of the islands is known as the hula and is very much apparent on Lei Day. The dance often includes ‘mele’ music and an ‘oli’ chant. It is so important to the spirit of the nation that many crowds gather in abundance to enjoy professionals perform at various venues all over the region. 

Lei Day
The hula has many variations


Hawaiians tend to eat traditionally on Lei Day. This includes lomi-lomi salmon—a salad that is bursting with freshness and includes tomatoes and green onions and is mixed with crushed ice. Kalua pig is also a common favourite on the day. Similar to how meat is cooked in Fiji, pork is lowered into a pit (or imu) and cooked on a wooden board known as a kiawe. After five or six hours, it is then taken out of the pit and served with side dishes.

Lei Day
Lomi-lomi prawn is a traditional Hawaiian side

Lei Day Queen

A part of the day that is considered quite important, albeit a little bit of fun, is the ‘Lei Day Queen’ competition. Many women enter in a bid to win, which is decided via a pageant. The winner is adorned the title ‘Lei Day Queen’ and considered the most beautiful lady in the land.

Lei Day
It may seem trivial, but the Lei Day crown is very important

Lei Day is celebrated on the first of May each year.

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