May Day Is Lei Day in Hawai’i
Today for most people is May Day the first of May. For me, it is Lei day. In Hawaii,May 1st is a day to celebrate the Lei (na lei is the Hawai’ian phrase) which is a flower necklace and represents the feeling of Aloha. I honestly had no idea that folks actually celebrated May Day. I had read about it as a child and thought it was archaic. I was pretty convinced that Lei Day was not only special to the islands of Hawai’i, but that no one BUT Hawai’ians celebrated May 1st. Yea I was wrong.
Anyway in case you are not Hawai’ian, Lei day is a day when we celebrate the heritage of the islands. Every island has a flower and a color that represents it. In school every grade was assigned an island to represent. We make leis of the flower and we wear muumuus (native dresses) of the same color. We would elect a King and Queen of the Islands and the prince and princess of each island. Then each grade would go and present leis to the court and we would dance for the royal Court. The one I remember was dancing a hula to One paddle Two Paddle song.
A lot of our teaching s in the week leading to May Day was about the heritage and history of Hawai’i, the kings and queens. I remember King Kamehameha and Queen Liliuokalani the most. Form a child’s point of view they were also the most memorable. King Kamehameha was the one who conquered Hawai’i and created a unified country. Before that each Island had its own monarchy and government. Queen Liliuokalani was the only girl ruler and that last one. Of course she stuck in my mind. I had major ambitions of being a queen someday.
As mentioned above, every island has its own lei and color to represent its island. My class represented Mauo and we wore pink muumuu and made the Lei of the pretty lokelani. I have listed the colors and the flowers (not all used actual flower) below.
Hawaiʻi: red, ʻōhiʻa lehua
Maui: pink, lokelani
Kahoʻolawe: gray or silver, hinahina
Lānaʻi: orange, kaunaʻoa
Oʻahu: yellow or gold, ʻilima
Molokaʻi: green, kukui
Kauaʻi: purple, mokihana
Niʻihau: white, pūpū o Niʻihau