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Lei poo

May Day is Lei Day

We all know the saying, but not everyone may know the origins. May Day has been celebrated around the world for thousands of years. It was the time when days became lighter longer, bringing with them flowers and weather conditions that were conducive to planting crops. On the US Mainland, grade school aged children would often make May Day baskets and go forage flowers (sorry to those from whose gardens I may have “borrowed” some posies!) to present to loved ones, or to leave anonymously at someone’s door.

In Hawaii, the ‘May Day is Lei Day’ tradition started in the 1920’s when a poet on Oahu, Don Blanding, did an interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, sharing his idea that Hawaii should have a day to celebrate the flower leis made and given in the islands. May 1st seemed like a good time, as there would be a number of different flowers in bloom to make leis. The tradition has grown year after year, with locals and visitors wearing their best on May 1st.

In 2008, Hawaii was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for having created the longest fresh lei in the world- 1 mile in length, only to have the title snatched away the following year by a lei that was 1.3 miles long made in the Philippines. The current record is held by India, but this year the city of Honolulu (along with DPR) is seeking to bring the title back to the islands. Wish them luck! And in the words of Hilo’s own recording artist and master lei maker Kuana Torres Kahele, “wear your lei!”

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