Many tourists who visit Hawaii get the experience of being gifted with a Hawaiian lei upon arrival. This gift is a beautiful cultural tradition practiced in the Hawaiian islands. Here are the reasons you receive a lei when visiting Hawaii.
Hawaiian Lei as a Greeting
The first reason you receive a lei when visiting Hawaii is because it is a greeting. When visitors arrive in Hawaii, they are gifted with a lei to welcome them to the islands. It is considered a great honor to receive a Hawaiian lei upon your arrival. Back when tourism was first increasing in Hawaii around the early 1900s, travelers would come by boat. Vendors who sold Hawaiian lei would gather at Aloha Tower at the pier and help to welcome the visitors as they came. The lei is a beautiful cultural greeting that has been a tradition for many years in Hawaii.
Tradition is the next reason you receive a lei when visiting the Hawaiian islands. The story behind the Hawaiian lei began when the ancient Polynesians left Tahiti and came to Hawaii around 400 CE. These early settlers would make lei out of leaves, flowers, shells, seeds, nuts, and feathers. When the Polynesians came to Hawaii, they brought seeds with them from Tahiti to plant. Many of these plants are still incorporated in Hawaiian lei today. Lei was given as a precious and prestigious gift by the ancient Polynesian settlers and became a tradition on the islands that we still see in modern times.
The last reason you receive a lei when you visit Hawaii is symbolism. These beautiful flower necklaces carry rich and detailed symbolism that holds significant meaning to the island’s natives. Of course, there are different meanings for each type of lei, but for the sake of this article, we will discuss the symbolism of the welcome leis you receive as a Hawaiian greeting. The lei locals give to visitors as they arrive in Hawaii symbolizes greetings, welcoming, friendship, love, and honor. These Hawaiian lei symbolize Aloha, which means love, peace, and affection. Hawaiians use Aloha as a greeting, much like the lei.
Now that you know the reasons you receive a lei when visiting Hawaii, you will be able to understand and appreciate the tradition with greater meaning. So, on your next trip to Hawaii, make sure to thank whoever gifts you with a lei and show gratitude, as it is a profound honor to receive one.
Dianne Pajo is a writer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.