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What it means to Receive a Lei

The tradition of receiving and giving a lei began with early Polynesian voyagers who embarked on the strenuous journey from Tahiti to the Hawaiian Islands. The word lei can represent singular and plural meanings, since “leis” is technically not a Hawaiian word. A lei is any series of objects strung together with the intent of being worn. Lei are constructed of flowers, leaves, sea shells, seeds, nuts, feathers or even bones of various animals. A lei is a common symbol of love, friendship, celebration, honor or greeting. In essence, it is a symbol of Aloha. In ancient Hawaii, wearing a lei represented wealth, royalty and rank. It is also associated with hula, religion and geography. As tourism increased in the Hawaiian Islands, most people were traveling here by boat during the early 1900s. During the “boat days,” lei vendors lined the pier at Aloha Tower to welcome visitors and locals to the islands. It is said departing visitors would throw their lei into the ocean as they were passing Diamond Head in hopes they, like the lei, would return to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Today, anyone can adorn a lei. If someone presents you with a lei, it is rude to not accept it, and you must never remove it in front of the person who gifted it to you. The proper way to wear a lei is draped gently over the shoulders so it hangs equally in the front and back. Lei for pregnant women are a great gift, but make sure it is an open lei as closed lei can be back luck for the baby in the womb. A haku or flower crown is also acceptable for pregnant women. Men often wear lei constructed of ti leaf, kukui nuts or leaves, and grooms are often seen wearing a maile lei, and open-ended lei made of maile vine, symbolizing royalty. To properly get rid of a lei, return it to where it came from by hanging it on a tree limb or bury it in your backyard. If you wish to send it in the ocean, unstring it first, then send the flowers or leaves into the waves. About the Author: Experience Upcountry Maui with Skyline Hawai’i on a guided tour. The relaxed culture and soaring views are just the beginning of what Upcountry Maui has to offer. For more information or to make your reservation today, visit: