Episode 83: What is Lei Day in Hawaii? Lei Day is May Day!

by | May 1, 2023


What is Lei Day in Hawaii?

Lei Day is a Hawaiian holiday celebrated annually on May 1st. It is a day to honor and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii through the tradition of making and giving leis.

A lei is a garland or wreath of flowers, leaves, or other materials, typically worn around the neck or head as a symbol of affection, friendship, and hospitality.

Lei Day festivities often include music, hula dancing, storytelling, lei-making demonstrations, contests, and various school and community events.

The holiday serves as a reminder of the beauty and unique spirit of the Hawaiian Islands and their people.

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This post offers general information only and should not be considered legal, authoritative advice. It aims to provide travelers with knowledge for safe and enjoyable outdoor activities but cannot replace individual swimming abilities, physical fitness, experience, or local up-to-date knowledge. Be aware that marine activities carry risks, and participants must assess weather, sea conditions, and hazards beforehand. Adhere to local laws and regulations.

Aloha and welcome to this special episode of Hawaii’s Best, where we dive into the beautiful and vibrant world of Lei Day in Hawaii.

Join our host, Bryan Murphy, as he talks with Kumu Kahanuola Solatoria, Kumu (teacher) of the Hawaiian language, about the history, significance, and celebrations surrounding this unique Hawaiian holiday.

Discover the rich tapestry of Hawaiian culture as we explore the importance of lei making, the ways Lei Day is celebrated across the islands, and the exciting events taking place this year.

In this episode, Kahanuola Solatoria shares the origins of Lei Day, which dates back to 1928, and its significance within Hawaiian culture.

As an integral part of the islands’ identity, leis represent a connection to the land and are an expression of love and respect for nature.

Kahanuola discusses the various types of leis and explains how the holiday honors the land and its resources.

duke statue lei day in hawaii

Our hosts delve into the various ways Lei Day is celebrated throughout Hawaii, from school performances and community events to island-wide lei-making contests.

Kahanuola highlights the special events taking place this year, including concerts featuring local Hawaiian musicians and hula performances, as well as the Lay Day Court selection process.

He also shares his band’s involvement, Keauhou, in the celebrations and the importance of honoring Hawaii’s precious freshwater sources.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and sounds of Hawaiian culture by tuning into this captivating episode of Hawaii’s Best podcast.

Learn about the history, significance, and joyous celebrations surrounding Lei Day in Hawaii, and join us as we honor the land, its resources, and the beautiful traditions that make the islands so special.

Don’t miss out on this exciting journey – listen to the full episode now and celebrate Lei Day with us, no matter where you are in the world!

Key Takeaways

  • Lei Day is celebrated on May 1st in Hawaii
  • It honors the tradition of making and giving leis
  • Leis symbolize affection, friendship, and hospitality
  • Festivities include music, hula dancing, storytelling, and lei-making demonstrations
  • Schools and communities organize special events for Lei Day
  • The holiday highlights the connection between Hawaiians and their land
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What is Lei Day in Hawaii? Lei Day is May Day!


[00:00:00] Kahanuola Solatoria: Aloha.

[00:00:04] Hawaii's Best: Welcome to hav Hawaii's best. Here you'll learn what to know before traveling as we discover Hawaiian culture, local businesses, and the experiences that make hav one of the most incredible places in the world. And now your host, Brian Murphy.

[00:00:21] Bryan Murphy: Hello. Hi, and welcome to another episode of Hawaii's Best.

[00:00:23] I'm your host Brian Murphy, and today I am joined with our. Unofficial cultural practitioner, KA Nui Soto. How is it going man? How is Oahu?

[00:00:34] Kahanuola Solatoria: Oahu is great. Um, long time. No, see you and chat. I

[00:00:37] Bryan Murphy: know. Well, it's good to connect again and and see ya and Totally. But today we're talking about mayday, which is late day in Hawaii.

[00:00:47] What is late day? All about why is it celebrated? Maybe a little history behind

[00:00:52] Kahanuola Solatoria: the day. Just starting us off. The first mayday, our lay day was held in 1928. [00:01:00] Lei has been very synonymous with Hawaii and Hawaiian culture. Back in the boat days, people would sell leis at the harbors to the tourists that would come in.

[00:01:09] I'm sure at that time it was like 10 cents or something. But every time someone thinks about , they think about . Whether it be coco or a fresh flower lay or the thick, you know, plastic flower lay that people like to wear with their grass skirts. It's a part of our culture and it's a part of our islands.

[00:01:30] But for me, like I. Yeah, there's a tourist side to it, but it also shows our connection to the land. It shows our aloha ink, our love for the land, because we use the resources that are given to us to create adornments that we love to wear, and we love to show off. So yeah, I think Lay Day is all about that.

[00:01:48] Celebrating our ina, celebrating our, mm-hmm our fresh flowers, our resources that were given because of this land.

[00:01:56] Bryan Murphy: And what are some ways and how it's celebrated. Yeah. [00:02:00] So, um, o obviously the making and giving of

[00:02:02] Kahanuola Solatoria: legs, but mm-hmm. Yeah, I, it's funny because as much as people want to wear lace every day, they're pretty expensive, you know, they're pretty pricey.

[00:02:11] So on this day, everyone, you know, wears their best mou, their best . They either make their own lay to wear or they give alay, they buy a lay the very best lays, and then, Other ways that we celebrated a lot of schools, they actually have mayday celebrations, whether it's actually on May day, on May 1st, or around that week or whatnot.

[00:02:34] Mm-hmm. So a lot of celebrations of Hawaiian music, of storytelling, hula, of course, that's all big components of. Lay day in our Hawaiian culture, and you see it like every school on that day, they're all having celebrations. You know, parents come to to watch their kids perform, get the shot of their child dancing hula for their first time, probably.

[00:02:58] Yeah. Yeah. And then there's a lot of, you [00:03:00] know, other concerts around the islands that celebrate Maday. Just Hawaiian music, good food, hula, all that jazz. So across

[00:03:08] Bryan Murphy: the islands, are there unique celebrations that the outer islands kind of celebrate in their own unique way? Or is it pretty much cohesive?

[00:03:15] Kahanuola Solatoria: Yeah, it's pretty cohesive. I know every year they usually have lake contest on every island, or at least the main four islands. Oahu, Kowai, Maui, and then one in Hilo, one in corner. But they have late contests. So the one in Oahu is usually held at the cap bandstand. Man, it's a good way for if tourists, you know, they want to come and look at beautiful le, they can go stop by.

[00:03:41] I think it's, it's a free event and anyone can just come and of course music and hula. And also for Oahu specifically, not sure about the other islands, but they have a lay day court. There's always gonna be a lay day queen. And then two, I guess ladies in waiting that they're the court for that year. [00:04:00] And this is held in February, the.

[00:04:02] The selection for that day there, the honorary late day court for Hawaii. So yeah, I think it starts in the morning at nine, but it goes all the way till like 5, 5 30. Okay. People have lay demonstrations. They have of course the lay contest. There's a few different styles of lay that people use. The first one is which a lot of people are getting confused with.

[00:04:26] They think that the HAKU is the one they wear in the head. The crown, yeah. Crown, yeah. Um, but that's, that would be called . And then PO is the head. So the HAKU is something that they weave together and they braid in all the different materials that they, you know, they want to create Haku means to create or to make.

[00:04:47] So,

[00:04:48] Bryan Murphy: and I think it is kind of, without saying, This year is probably a little bit more special because there's a lot more in-person celebration this year. Yeah, yeah.

[00:04:58] Kahanuola Solatoria: Yeah. And the, I think, [00:05:00] uh, the past year, two years, we had to do a lot of virtual concerts and virtual hula, but now everything's opening up a little bit more.

[00:05:08] So I know three main big concerts that are going on this year. Um, one is with and that's gonna be at the Hoi Theater. He just won his third Grammy for his, uh, that's right. His third album. Yeah. So another awesome night of hula music one is with halve at the Waikiki show, their annual hula concert performance.

[00:05:32] So, and again, a lot of hula and music. And then the one that we are putting on with my Van Kale Hole. Uh, my other two bandmates, Zachary and Nicholas Lam, were putting that with Ka uh, at the Bishop Museum. It's not an in-person event. There's gonna be like a small audience, but if you wanna to tune in, you can watch it on KG m b if you're in Hawaii channel seven, or we're gonna stream it online on.

[00:05:56] All the platforms, you know, Facebook and stuff. So I think [00:06:00] that's gonna be great. We have a lot of local Hawaiian artists, kava, Manu Boyd, and then of course Robert ero, who's been very, you know, when you think about Mayday, you think about his concert with the brothers ero. Mm-hmm. Um, that was went on for 25 plus years, um, at the Waikiki shell.

[00:06:19] So the Shell, right? Yeah. Yeah. Um, we have. Halals coming in about the theme of this year. We're honoring water, we're honoring the importance of water. Ola water gives life to everyone. Yeah. We're just coming off of the Red Hill water crisis that was going on. Right. So we really want to, um, Pay homage, um, respects and honor our water sources that we have freshwater sources.

[00:06:45] So yeah.

[00:06:46] Bryan Murphy: Love that. And your band has been involved in, uh, celebration for quite a few years. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:06:54] Kahanuola Solatoria: So this is our fourth year putting on a mayday celebration. The first year was in person right [00:07:00] before pandemic. That was a big one at the convention center. Then we had our second and third years were on.

[00:07:07] Uh, virtual. So we had a TV performance and online and stuff. And then this one were both in person and live stream on tv, on the internet, so. Awesome. Yeah, it's, it's kind of cool to be back in person, but also share our concert with the world pretty much. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So if you're, you know, in Hawaii, if you are.

[00:07:30] On the continent or in another country even, please tune in. You can find it on our website or our Facebook Kho band. And also you can go to Hawaii News now and tune in there. But hopefully you guys can all celebrate maybe with us from your own home.

[00:07:46] Bryan Murphy: Okay, awesome. We will definitely link all that in the show notes.

[00:07:50] You can also go to really any one of our Instagram pages and easily find the links to be able to view if [00:08:00] you're not on island right now. If you are on island, definitely consider some of these, uh, celebrations over, you know, over this weekend. Kae, before we say goodbye, anything else you'd love to share?

[00:08:11] Kahanuola Solatoria: Yeah. Um, how about one of the songs that are, you know, famous from? Oh, come on.

[00:08:17] Bryan Murphy: I mean, God, yeah, you gotta do

[00:08:19] Kahanuola Solatoria: it. So if you know it, just sing along and maybe dance. Dance if you want to. Okay. Lady in 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 a side of Lord of Care.

[00:08:53] Mayday Lady Mayday. Happy [00:09:00] days out there. Happy mayday everyone.[00:10:00] [00:11:00]

[00:11:47] Hawaii's Best: Mahalo for listening to this episode of Hawaii's. Best to stay Up to date on future episodes. Please subscribe and visit [email protected].[00:12:00]

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