What is the meaning of a lei?

Article published at: Feb 6, 2024 Article author: Tyson Camarao
What is the meaning of a lei? - Leilanis Leis
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What is the meaning of a Lei?

A lei is a traditional Hawaiian garland or necklace, typically made of flowers, leaves, or shells. It is often given as a symbol of affection, celebration, or honor. But what is the true meaning behind this beautiful and culturally significant adornment? In this article, we will explore the meaning of a lei, its history, and symbolism.

History of the Lei

The lei has been a part of Hawaiian culture for centuries, with evidence of its existence dating back to ancient times. It was originally used as a way to distinguish between different tribes and to show rank and status. As the islands were influenced by other cultures, the Hawaiian lei evolved into a symbol of Aloha.

Types of Leis

There are many different types of leis, each with its own unique meaning and purpose.

The lei made of flowers is the most frequently encountered type of lei.

A flower lei is usually made from local island flowers such as plumeria, orchids, and pikake. Other types include the maile lei, made from fragrant maile leaves, and the kukui nut lei, made from the shiny black nuts of the kukui tree.

Symbolism of the Lei

The lei is often seen as a symbol of love, friendship, and aloha (the Hawaiian word for love and affection). It is also a symbol of celebration and is commonly worn at weddings, graduations, and other special occasions. In Hawaiian culture, the lei is also seen as a way to honor and show respect to someone, whether they are living or deceased.

How to Make a Lei

Making a lei is a labor of love and is often a group effort. Traditionally, the flowers or leaves are strung onto a long string or thread, with each person adding their own contribution. Lei making has been passed down thru generations and continues to be a distinct Hawaiian tradition.

This represents the concept of people being united and cooperating in order to achieve a shared objective.

Today, leis can also be made using artificial flowers or materials, but the sentiment remains the same.

Lei Etiquette

In Hawaiian culture, there are certain etiquette rules when it comes to giving and receiving a lei. It is considered disrespectful to refuse a lei or to remove it in front of the person who gave it to you. It is also important to wear the lei back off the neck as not to be hindering you or dragging you down.

In Conclusion

The lei is more than just a beautiful necklace, it is a symbol of love, friendship, and celebration.

The lei is greatly valued in the Hawaiian culture for its historical and symbolic significance, being seen as a meaningful gift to give and receive. When you see a lei being worn next time, recall the profound significance behind this customary decoration.


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