Every year on May 1st, a statewide celebration takes place that’s quintessentially Hawaiian: May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii! Whether at work, school, strolling through town or going to the grocery store, everyone celebrates Lei Day by wearing a lei as a symbol of Aloha — as well as to honor the cherished custom of making and giving a lei.
An Island tradition since 1927, Lei Day was first conceived by writer/poet Don Blanding, a journalist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He shared his idea with fellow newspaper columnist Grace Tower Warren, who coined the phrase, “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.” Soon thereafter, a song of the same name was composed by Ruth and Leonard “Red” Hawk. By 1929, the governor of Hawaii (Wallace Farrington) signed a Lei Day proclamation that encouraged residents to honor the traditions of Hawaii Nei by wearing and displaying lei.
“May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii
Garlands of flowers everywhere
All of the colors in the rainbow
Maidens with blossoms in their hair
Flowers that mean we should be happy
Throwing aside a load of care
Oh, May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii
May Day is happy days out there”
Happy Lei Day, everybody!
Innkeeper Holualoa Inn