One of the great things about visiting Hawaii is that someone will give you a flower lei. They smell nice and are beautiful, but do you know where the tradition comes from? What is the significance of receiving a flower lei?
The lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who took an incredible journey from Tahiti, navigating by the stars in sailing canoes. With these early settlers, the lei tradition in Hawaii was born.
Leis were constructed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts and feathers. These garlands were worn by ancient Hawaiians to beautify and distinguish themselves from others. With the advent of tourism in the islands, the lei quickly became the symbol of Hawaii to millions of visitors worldwide.
During the “Boat Days” of the early 1900s, lei vendors lined the pier at Aloha Tower to welcome visitors to the islands and locals back home. It is said that departing visitors would throw their lei into the sea as the ship passed Diamond Head, in the hopes that like the lei, they too would return to the islands again some day.