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Hawaiian Lei Traditions


Hawaiian Lei Traditions

"Lei" is a Hawaiian word for a garland or wreath. More loosely defined, a lei is any series ofHawaiian lei traditions objects such as flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, or even teeth of animals, strung together with the intent to be worn. The most common concept of a lei in Hawaiian culture is a wreath of flowers draped around the neck presented upon arriving or leaving, as a symbol of affection.

The lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who traveled from Tahiti, navigating by stars in sailing canoes. With these settlers, the Hawaiian lei tradition was born. The ancient Hawaiians wore leis to beautify themselves and distinguish themselves from others. The maile lei was the most significant. Among other sacred uses, it was used to signify a peace agreement between opposing chiefs.

Some etiquette is attached to receiving a lei. A lei should be a welcomed celebration of one personís affection to another. Therefore, always accept a lei, never refuse. The proper way to wear a lei is gently draped over the shoulders, hanging down both in front and in back. It is considered rude to remove a lei from your neck in the presence of the person who gave it to you, so if you must, be discreet. In modern times, a lei is usually given with a kiss Ė a custom which began in World War II. Traditionalists, however, give a lei by bowing slightly and raising it above the heart, allowing the recipient to take it, as raising the hands above anotherís head, or touching the face or head, is considered disrespectful.