Why Celebrating May Day in Hawaii is the Best

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In Hawaii, May day is not just another old holiday. It’s a big deal because it symbolizes different things for the various locals. We make and give leis on this day. We celebrate the symbolism behind lei giving, the beauty of leis, and the skill of lei-making. This is one of my favorite days of the year in Hawaii, and not just because it’s my birthday. 🙂 May day is Lei day in Hawaii, and we celebrate everything about our leis. On all of the Hawaiian islands, we have parades and festivals, parties and pageants. May day in Hawaii is completely different from the way other states celebrate this day, and here are a few of the reasons why it’s celebrated the best in Hawaii.


It’s Lei day!

We make, give, and receive leis on this day. EVERYONE has an excuse to wear a lei on this day–it doesn’t need to be fancy or anything. Any lei works. It’s the day where everyone can get dressed up again in their best Hawaiian attire. We have excuses to wear leis, hakus, and flowers in our hair and ears. And, as a side note, this is a day that smells so wonderful, especially with the fragrance of flowers in the air.


We celebrate the significance of leis

Leis come in all shapes and sizes, and this is the day we really really celebrate the art and history of leis. Oahu probably has the biggest lei celebration, especially because they have a lei-making competition, where lei-makers are judged on the skill and quality of their leis.


We have a Lei Day Court

In school plays, community parades, or local performances, lei day is another day to have people dressing up and representing the various Hawaiian islands. We love each island, and Lei day is another day to foster the aloha spirit and unity between the various islands. Who wouldn’t want to dress up like a Hawaiian king or queen for a day? Even if you’re not the king or queen, you can always be something else. Kings and Queens need their attendants and kahili-holders.


It falls shortly after Merrie Monarch

The buzz and excitement from Merrie Monarch is still in the air, and Lei day is a great way for locals to get out again, donning their best aloha attire, talk about the Merrie Monarch, and, of course, wear leis!


It’s a day for Ho’ike

While we don’t get to take off of school on this day, it’s still the best because students know school is coming to an end, and summer is right around the corner. And, classes are usually shortened because most schools will make time for celebrating. I remember in my high school (I went Kamehameha Schools on the Big Island), we had a ho’ike, which is basically a performance and celebration. I watched my little sister dance hula with her classmates as I sat in the sun eating haole brownies with my friends. It was a relief knowing that the school year was almost over. For many students, Lei day is that last boost to get them through to the end of the school year.


It’s a day for Pa’ina

Another great thing about this day is that it’s a good excuse for a pa’ina, a party. In high school, they made us special lunches or we brought food for a potluck party. I loved the sense of community when my classmates and I brought food for pa’ina in our classes. I remember even after high school, I’d always get invited to cousins’ ho’ike to watch them perform. And, of course, lei giving was all a part of that.


It’s a good excuse for a cool name

My name is Leialoha and my parents named me that in honor of my mom’s kumuhula named Leialoha, and also because May 1st is Lei Day. Anyone born on this day can have the name “Lei” included because they deserve it! It’s Lei day!

I love Lei day. I love that it’s so community-oriented and fosters the aloha spirit. There’s a lot of mana in the air on this day as we celebrate our culture and heritage. It’s the best kind of a birthday and it’s also the best kind of a holiday, especially when compared to the way other people celebrate this day. What is your favorite May day memory?


Special shoutout to the photo credit for the title. If you want to check out a real lei-maker and producer, these folks are doing it!

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