In Hawaii, It’s Lei Day
“May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii Nei” is a popular phrase that makes all remember May 1st. It was Don Blanding, a writer and poet, who first suggested a holiday dedicated to the beautiful Hawaiian tradition of making and wearing leis. However, it was Grace Tower Warren, also a writer, who came up with the idea the holiday should be on May Day. The first Lei Day was May 1, 1928, and it’s remained on the first of May, no matter the day of the week, ever since.
Each island has its own way of celebrating. Oahu hosts the state’s largest May Day event at Queen Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. The event is free and open to the public. It features live music, a lei contest exhibit, hula performances, demonstrations, craft and food vendors and more. In 2019, May Day Waikiki was celebrated on the beach at Waikiki and May Day on the Great Lawn was again celebrated at the Bishop Museum.
On Maui, Lei Day Heritage Festival at Hale Hōʻikeʻike was celebrated at the Bailey House in Wailuku — a free community event featuring a lei contest, food and live music. On the Big Island of Hawaii, the Lei Day Festival is usually held in Hilo and there are live lei making demonstrations at the Hilo historic site. On Kauai, the Kauai Marriott presents an annual Walter and Irmalee Day Lei Contest. You can enter your lei in the contest, learn to make leis or win one to take home and, of course, there is food (it’s not a Hawaiian celebration without food), vendors and live music.
Last but not least, on Oahu you must check out the large statue of King Kamehameha who united the eight major islands. There are six statues of Kamehameha, but the most famous is on King Street between Aolilolani Hale, home to the Hawaiian Supreme Court, and Iolani Palace, the former royal residence.
Each year, large leis — up to 30 feet — are crafted with thousands of flowers and draped over the statue’s arms and around his feet. Members of the community donate their backyard flowers or volunteer to help string leis, which take hours to complete. It’s a wonderful time to plan an Island vacation and the weather is great at that time of year.