The Hawaiian Lei

Graduate wearing lots of lei

What is a lei?

A decorative garland, worn on the head or around the neck. Lei are made of various materials (flower, leaves, nuts, ribbon, candy, money, etc) and of varying lengths. In traditional Hawaiian culture, lei were given as a symbol of love, friendship, honor, celebration and greetings.

When is lei given or worn?

  • Birthdays
  • Graduations
  • Welcoming a visitor
  • During special events
  • Weddings
  • Just Because

Lei Etiquette

A symbol of ALOHA, lei can be worn at any time and by anyone. However, there are some things to know about receiving or giving lei that one should be aware of...

  • Never refuse a lei. One should always welcome a lei with a huge smile, a warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek (if you are comfortable with it).
    • If you are unable to wear the lei for allergy/sensitivity reasons, accept the lei as mentioned above, then discreetly and apologetically slip-off the lei. It is acceptable to offer the lei to your significant other if you are unable to wear it.
  • Never give a closed lei to a pregnant woman. It is believed that a closed lei around the neck is bad luck for the unborn child.
    • A lei po'o (worn on head) or an open-ended lei is acceptable.

Lei Making Tutorial

Here in Santa Rosa, flower lei are hard to come by. Orchid lei can be found at select florists. That being said, ribbon or yarn lei can be made by hand; with aloha. Here is a short tutorial on how to make a one-straw eyelash yarn lei.