Hawaii's finest flower leis for three generations

All About Leis

Leis are a symbol of Hawai'i and a gift unique from any other. We here at Cindy's Lei Shoppe have been committed to sharing with you the beauty that is a lei. 

History

Throughout all the islands in the South Pacific, Polynesians honored their gods by twining greens into wreaths and adorning themselves with strings of flowers and vines. Before Western contact, Hawaiians used indigenous materials or plants introduced from other parts of Polynesia. The most commonly used plants and flowers were hala, lehua, `ilima, ti and maile. After long ocean voyages ceased and Hawaiians entered a period of cultural isolation (1300s-1778), they developed a richer variety of lei than anywhere else in Polynesia. In a lifestyle that fused ritual and nature with every aspect of daily life, lei was a ubiquitous ornament worn during various work activities, along with celebrations or rites by maka`ainana (commoners) as well as ali`i (chiefs). (Hawaii History Source)

The state of Hawaii in 1988 adopted the Pua Aloalo or Ma`o has hele (Hibiscus blackenridge) as the official 50th State floral emblem. The state of Hawai‘i consists of eight major islands and each island adopted a local flower as its emblem flower and color. (Net State Source)

Hawai‘i

Lehua (MetrosiderosmacropusM.collina)
also known as Pualehuais

Red

O‘ahu

Illima(SidaFallax)
also known as the Pua`ilimafrom the native dodder shrub

Golden Yellow

Kaua‘i

Mokihana (Paleaanisata) 

Purple

Maui

Lokelani (Rosa damascene)
also known as damask rose

Pink

Moloka‘i

Fukui (Aleuritesmoluccana)
Also known as Pua Kukui from the candle nut tree 

Green

Lana‘i

Kaunaoa (Cuscutasandwhichiana)
from the native dodder

Orange

Ni‘ihau

Pupuis (Laiki and Kahelelani)
also known as the Momi

White

Kaho’olawe 

Hinahina (Heliotropiumanomalumvar. argenteum) 
also known as Pele's Hair

Gray 

Old Hawai‘i

During the late 1800’s when steamships brought visitors to the islands, the visitors were given a beautiful fragrant lei as a way to greet them and welcome them to the island. People began to create legends about the lei. Some say the lei was "good luck". The most popular legend was when you set sail to go home, if you tossed your lei overboard and it floated toward the beach, you would someday return to the island. It is said that when a steamship left the island, hundreds of leis were seen floating on the surface of the ocean.

In the Late 1800’s ship brought many visitors to Hawai‘i by boat before the era of flight. These ships were filled with adventurers seeking to explore these “foreign” tropical islands. Upon landing they were greeted by sounds of ukuleles as well as hula dancers adorned with ti leaves and bearing lei greeters. Upon departing the islands, travelers would toss their leis into the ocean, and if their leis drifted to shore, they were ensured a safe return to the islands.

May Day

Since May 1, 1928 Hawaii has celebrated every May 1st as it’s official "Lei Day.” "May Day is Lei Day" is a merry expression local islanders use to celebrate the holiday. The flower lei is celebrated passionately on May Day with Hula, parades and music. On May Day, most parents request to take a day off of work so they can watch their children participate in May Day festivities and programs at school. Everyone in Hawaii is encouraged to wear a lei on May Day. 

What occasion is appropriate to give a lei?

Any occasion you would buy flowers for, is an occasion fitting to bestow a lei! In Hawaii, a lei is given for every occasion! Birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, graduations, engagements, award ceremonies, blessings or just because! It is common for graduates to have so many leis around their neck that they can no longer see! Quite simply there does not need to be an occasion to wear a lei. We have many customers stop in to purchase a lei for no reason at all, just to extend their thoughtfulness, or to show they care for that special person. 

Etiquette The history of the Hawaiian lei tells us that originally leis were presented to another person by bowing and slightly raising the lei above your heart and offer the lei to be taken by the other person. It was considered very bad manners to raise your hands or arms above another person’s head, so it was never put around the neck. During World War II and the American soldiers arrival on Oahu, the custom changed and leis were placed around the neck and the recipient was given a kiss on the cheek to show affection and welcome. Today it is proper etiquette to give a lei or bestow one onto another person, and it is considered taboo to “lei” yourself. 

How to wear a lei

The proper way to wear a lei is gently draped over the shoulders, hanging down both in front and in back. If there is a bow/ribbon on the lei, it should be placed on the shoulder.

Pregnancy:  It is considered taboo to give a closed (tied) leis to a pregnant (hapai) woman. it is considered (in Hawaii) impolite, because many feel that a closed lei around the neck is bad luck for the unborn child and mother. Hakus (flower crown / head lei) and open-ended leis are acceptable to give to a pregnant woman.

Accepting a Lei 

Always graciously accept a lei with aloha, reciprocate with a smile, a kiss on the cheek , or a warm embrace. If you are allergic or sensitive to flowers, then discreetly and apologetically slip off the lei. 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. It is acceptable and considered a kind gesture to offer the lei to your spouse if you are unable to wear it. A safer option if there is a chance of allergies or sensitivity to certain leis, is our option to purchase orchid leis which have no fragrance.

The history of the Hawaiian lei tells us that there is also a tradition with disposing of a lei. It should never be tossed in the trash. Leis should also not be thrown into the ocean or earth as they were in the past. We encourage everyone to protect our oceans and our aina, by removing the flowers from the string and then disposing of the each part accordingly. All leis are filled with love and aloha from each designer and we recommend that each lei should be returned where the flowers were gathered or returned to the earth by hanging it on a tree branch, removing the string and scattering the flowers, burying it or burning it. 

Lei making is an art. It takes a delicate hand and lots of love. Expert artistry involves eye for tension, color, neatness, overall workmanship. We have leis that take several hours to create from harvesting the flowers, sewing/braiding and eventually to completed floral creation.

Keeping Leis Fresh

Cindy's Lei Shoppe is committed to providing our customers with the best floral products. We use the freshest flowers possible to create your leis and we hand select blooms to provide the look similar to those portrayed on our website. Lei orders are prepared fresh on the day of ship to ensure the longest longevity during transit. However as with all florals, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature and our Aina. There will be on occasion that we may experience hardship with the harvest or production of the blooms. Should that occur we reserve the right to substitute flowers without sacrificing the look and value of your unique floral art. 

Returning to Nature

The history of the Hawaiian lei tells us that there is also a tradition with disposing of a lei. It should never be tossed in the trash. Leis should also not be thrown into the ocean or earth as they were in the past. We encourage everyone to protect our oceans and our aina, by removing the flowers from the string and then disposing of the each part accordingly. All leis are filled with love and aloha from each designer and we recommend that each lei should be returned where the flowers were gathered or returned to the earth by hanging it on a tree branch, removing the string and scattering the flowers, burying it or burning it.

Fragrant Hawaiian flowers are tuberose, pikake, ginger, and plumeria. Orchid leis are the hardiest, varying in sizes and colors.
Image All About Leis

Image 2 All About Leis

Image 3 All About Leis