Lei Day is a uniquely Hawaiian celebration, honoring the tradition of making and wearing lei. The first Lei Day occurred in downtown Honolulu in 1927. Honolulu Star-Bulletin writer and poet, Don Blanding suggested the idea. In 1929, Lei Day became a state-wide celebration.
Always celebrate on May 1st, Lei Day is not a state holiday, so businesses are open as usual. The celebration is marked by making and wearing lei, parades, contests, music, and traditional hula. The largest Lei Day festival takes place in Honolulu at Kapiolani Park. Each of the neighbor islands also host celebrations.
About Hawaiian Lei
Lei* is a Hawaiian word meaning garland or wreath most often made of flowers. However, lei can be made from other types of natural and man-made materials, such as leaves, shells, feathers, beads, ribbon, and paper. Lei Po’o (haku lei) is a head lei or crown. A haku is formed with the flowers and/or greenery plaited or braided “face-out.” More info: Lei Make Methods.ai (honolulu.gov) and 7 of Hawaii’s Most Popular Lei and What Makes Them Unique – Hawaii Magazine
*Lei: in the Hawaiian language, an “s” is not added to make a word plural. So, you say one lei, two lei; not two leis.
Lei are worn by men, women, and children. Often given as a symbol of affection or honor, lei are a traditional gesture for many Hawaiian occasions, including birthdays, graduation, weddings, anniversaries, retirement, contest winners, holidays and many other occasions. However, there does not need to be a reason or occasion. Anyone can wear a lei, anytime. You buy or make a lei to wear yourself.
Veteran lei makers maintain a lei garden and supplement their flowers with blossoms from the gardens of friends, florists, garden shops, and wholesale floral shops. It takes as much time (or more) to gather flowers as it does to make a lei. Many people also gather materials from the forest. However, be sure not to pick any endangered species; know what you are picking and to take only the amount you need.
To give a lei, it is customary to place lei around the neck of the recipient and then to kiss them on both cheeks. To wear a lei, drape the garland over your shoulders, with it hanging down equally in front and in back. You must always accept a lei when presented. Don’t remove a lei from your neck in the presence of the person who gave it to you. If you must remove it (strong fragrance, allergy, or whatever reason), be discreet.
Enjoy the following video performance of “Hawai’i Aloha” featuring dozens of Hawai‘i’s top artists across many genres and 1,000 youth from 10 Hawaiian charter schools. It is Hawaiiʻs most widely known song, used to close important gatherings of all sizes. It is a song of unity and Aloha ‘Aina (Aloha for one’s birthplace, land and home).
“Hawai’i Aloha” is almost always sung in ʻōlelo Hawaiian. For Hawaiian and English lyrics to “Hawai’i Aloha”, visit: Lyrics of the Song “Hawaii Aloha” (hawaiianmusichistory.com).
Lei Day events and things to do
Each year, we update the list of Lei Day events beginning in April.
(Listed by Island, in date order)
Hawaiʻi Lei Day events
Sunday, May 1, 2022 from 9 am – 7 pm. The inaugural Waikoloa Lei Day Festival celebrates the origin and art of lei-making in Hawai`i. Events will take place at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, Kings’ Shops, and Queens’ Marketplace. This free festival will include free lei-making workshops, a craft fair at the Marriott, sidewalk sales at Kings’ Shop and Queens’ Marketplace, keiki activities, live music, and hula performances. More info: Lei Day 2022 – Waikoloa Beach Resort
Oʻahu Lei Day events
May 1, 2022, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Honolulu Lei Day contest entries (3840 Paki Ave, 96815). Each lei must be accompanied by a completed official entry form, submitted to the Lei Receiving booth at Kapi‘olani Park. Any individual or group may enter an unlimited number of lei. All ages welcomed. More info: HAWAIIAN LEI CONTEST RULES 2022 – PDF. (honolulu.gov)
May 1, 2022, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. May Day is Lei Day in the Barn at SALT! (91 Auahi St, 96813) The community is invited to join Lei Day festivities. The event will include live music featuring Denny Ono (10 – 11 a.m.) and a hula performance by Halau ‘O Napuala‘ikauika‘iu, led by Kumu Hula Sallie Yoza (11 a.m. – 12 p.m.) Plus, there will be lei making and keiki crafts for the community to enjoy (while supplies last). Anyone can be a winner when they give the Spin Wheel a whirl.
May 1, 2022, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Lei Day display at Kapiʻolani Park (3840 Paki Ave, 96815). All lei accepted for entry into the Honolulu Lei Day contest will be on display to the public in the park, between the bandstand and Waikīkī Shell.
May 2, 2022 at 9:00 AM. Lei Ceremony at Mauna ‘Ala Royal Mausoleum (2261 Nu‘uanu Ave). The public is invited. Lei may be viewed before the ceremony begins. As part of the ceremony, the public participates by draping the lei on the crypts
and tombs of Hawai‘i’s ali‘i. Following the Mauna ‘Ala ceremony, a brief ceremony to honor King Lunalilo will be held at Kawaiāha‘o Church (957 Punchbowl Street).
Saturday, May 7, 2022 from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM. Lei workshop in Kailua (address TBA). This lei making workshop is designed as a mindfulness activity. Lei making is all about setting intention. You and your family members will come out of this event learning a few different styles of lei making and how you can use this to reset your mind and find peace. Workshop investment is $25/per ohana, which includes workshop materials. More info: Family Lei Making Tickets, Sat, May 7, 2022 at 10:00 AM | Eventbrite
Honolulu Parks & Rec Lei Day Theme
The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) defines a particular theme which coincides with a specific flower/plant that must be used in lei submitted the annual lei contest. In addition, prior to the Lei Day Celebration, a Lei Court is chosen. Three court members must fall within the age group for that year.
There are also three lei contests in several categories: Hawaiian lei, youth lei, and lei lipine (ribbon, fabric, yarn lei). The lei contest rules are typically made to the public by the beginning of the year.
Lei makers are encouraged to plan their lei garden for the next two years so that the materials are ready and available as the Lei Day Celebration approaches.
More info: Lei Day (honolulu.gov)
Theme for Lei Day 2022
The 2022 the theme is Lei Wao Nahele – forest lei. The corresponding theme flower is ‘A‘ali‘i (Dodonaea viscosa).
The age category for the 2022 Lei Court is 46 to 60 years of age. The 2022 Lei Day Court will be selected on Saturday, March 5, 2022.
- The 93rd Lei Court crowned March 2022 (pictured above): First Princess Kalehua Tolention, Princess Kēhau Holi-Robb, and Queen Natalie Borwn Ah Quin.
Theme for Lei Day 2023
The 2023 theme is Lei Kuahiwi – mountain lei. The corresponding theme flower is ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha). As Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) continues to threaten our lehua forests, the challenge in 2023 will be to make an “‘ōhi‘a-like lei” using the Calliandra (is a genus of flowering plants in the pea family, Fabaceae, in the mimosoid clade of the subfamily Caesalpinioideae;) and eucalyptus – without using any part of the ‘ōhi‘a plant.
- Please prevent the spread of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) by not transporting ‘ōhi‘a products between islands (the disease is currently found on Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i islands). More info: Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death HOME (hawaii.edu) and PI-ROD-admin-rules.pdf (hawaii.gov)
The age category for the 2023 Lei Court is 61 years of age and older. The 2023 Lei Day Court will be selected on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Hilo Lei Day
Hilo Lei Day Festival is held at Kalākaua Park. It is free and open to the public. The family-friendly event celebrates Hawaiian history, culture, and arts. There are lei making demonstrations, live local music, and hula performance. The celebration begins with a re-dedication of Kalākaua Park at 10:30 am followed by the opening ceremony is at 11:00 am. The festival ends at 2:00 pm.
More info: May Day is Lei Day in Hawaiʻi (leiday.org)
Maui Lei Day Heritage Festival
Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House in Wailuku hosts the largest Lei Day celebration on Maui.
Maui Arts and Cultural Center usually hosts an annual Lei Day concert featuring local musicians, though nothing was on their event calendar as of April 7, 2022.
Kauai Lei Day celebration
Kauai Museum typically hosts annual May Day Lei Contest, though nothing was announced on their event website as of April 7, 2022.
Lei Day events on our calendar
Lei Day is May Day, an unofficial state holiday always celebrated on May 1. The following events feature Lei Day celebrations, including lei-making workshops and demos or related events.