Tag Archives: lei

Material Culture – Hawaii

Tradition of Leis

Growing up in a family immersed in Hawaiian culture, Ihilani has always been aware of the tradition of giving leis to others.  She has given leis to her friends and family members as an indication of love and thanks.  Similar to a bouquet of flowers, leis are often given in special occasions such as graduations and ceremonies.  However, they hold greater meanings and sentiments than just flowers do.  In Hawaii, leis are often seen as a symbol of appreciation and affection.  They also represent a spiritual connection between the giver and the receiver.  It is therefore rude to refuse a lei from an individual.

Leis also hold a deeper, special meaning, illustrating the strength of family in Hawaiian culture.  The circular shape of the lei symbolizes the wholeness and unity that exists among the people.  As a lei does not have any stray ends, it indicates the lack of brokenness between people and creates a sense of completeness.  It demonstrates the unending love that exists in families and portrays the embracing nature of their love.  Leis therefore are the ultimate symbol of affection in Hawaiian culture.

The meaning of a lei can differ with each individual, and the presenting of a lei is often based on what the giver wants to portray.  It can be given out of love, respect, or even fun.  There is no restriction as to when a lei can be given.  Rather, it is a gift meant to bring simple pleasures to the receiver.  Therefore, the presenting of leis in Hawaiian culture portrays the giving and loving nature of citizens in Hawaii.