Right before confirming our flights on Hawaiian Airline’s website, I scrolled down to find a section of special add-ons, including hotel accommodations and transportation. But what caught my eye was the option to add a traditional lei greeting to your flight package.

For an extra $15, visitors receive a fresh floral lei upon arrival to the islands, or as Hawaiian’s website put it, “The perfect way to infuse a little bit of aloha into your first moments in paradise.” I get it – the glory of a flower lei on your trip to Hawaii. I’d imagine it’s just as thrilling as when I get my traditional Minnie Mouse ears at Disneyland.

But a part of me just shakes my head at the “purchase” of what’s supposed to be given from the heart. In Hawaiian culture, a lei represents so much more than just a string of flowers; it is an extension of a person, a gift to be shared with someone special.

True, that most lei given nowadays are bought as opposed to handmade, but the act of giving should not be something to purchase. I know tour guides who greet their customers with lei at the airport but don’t charge. Unlike a random lei greeter, my tour guide friends get to know their customers – sharing the aloha in more ways than a single lei can ever bring.


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