Being a CPA in Hawaii, we are well acquainted with the history and custom of the lei. But seeing how many of you aren’t lucky enough to call one of our islands home, we thought we’d share some history and etiquette with you! It will come in handy on your next visit!
History of the Hawaiian Lei
The lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who took a journey from Tahiti. With these early settlers, the lei tradition in Hawaii was born. The original leis were constructed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, and even bone and teeth of various animals. In Hawaiian tradition, these garlands were worn to beautify themselves. Among other sacred uses, it was used to signify a peace agreement between opposing chiefs.
An Island Hello!
Today, the lei is the symbol of Hawaii for the millions of visitors worldwide. During the “Boat Days” of the early 1900s, travelers were greeted at the pier at Aloha Tower to welcome malihini (visitors) to the islands and kama’aina (locals) back home.
There are very few “rules” when it comes to wearing a Hawaiian lei. Anyone can wear one, anytime – no special occasion is necessary.
While there aren’t any “formal rules”, there are a couple of “unspoken rules” that should be respected. * A lei should be a welcomed celebration, 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.