Category Archives: History Hawai`i


Lei Display

Lei Day, officially launched in 1928, is a popular festival in Hawai`i. Don Blanding, then a columnist for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, came up with the idea, later saying that at the time Hawai`i had no day that was special. Why not have a Lei Day – a day when everyone could wear lei and give lei? Grace Tower Warren, another columnist, suggested May 1st would be the perfect day. Coincidentally, she came up with the slogan: May Day is Lei Day in Hawai`i.

Princess Helen KawananākoaPrincess Helen Kawananākoa, approved, saying “the nicest part of Lei Day is that it brings kamaainas together again.”

The Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that the new event took off. “Lei blossomed on straw and felt hats, lei decorated automobiles, men and women and children wore them draped about their shoulders.”

Lei Day by Charles W. Bartlett

Even Governor Judd caught the spirit. The following year he urged residents to “observe the day and honor the traditions of Hawaii nei by wearing and displaying lei.”

Leonard Hawk wrote a song for the new holiday, one that perpetuates the theme. “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” was written as a foxtrot, though now the music is adapted to hula. You can sing along with King Nawahi’s Hawaiians.



The City and County of Honolulu holds an Annual Lei Day Celebration at Kapi`olani Park to celebrate lei and the artistry of Hawai`i’s lei makers. This year’s theme is Lei `Aloha Kea – The brilliant white lei, the platinum of kupuna. Charlene Leimomi Irvine is the 90th Lei Queen. She has two princesses in her Court: First Princess Helen Mealoha Yuk Jun Kuoha-Torco and Princess Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis. Free lei-making workshops have been held throughout O`ahu with participants encouraged to enter the Lei Competition on Lei Day.

Lei Niihau, Bishop Museum

Lei Day is celebrated at many Hawai`i public schools, especially at the elementary level. Each year a boy and girl from the graduating class is voted to represent each island. Children construct paper leis and cardboard mats to sit on during the festivities. When Lei Day arrives, the royal court marches in costume to preside over events. Family and friends are invited to watch students sing songs from Hawai`i and other parts of Polynesia and perform dances. Besides hula, there may be the Maori poi dance, Filipino stick dance, and Samoan slap dances. Relay races are often part of the event



Lei Day is a joyful event. A time to relax with friends and share aloha. When a lei is made, the mana of the creator is woven into the flowers. Thus, when you give lei, you give a part of yourself. When you receive lei, you receive part of the person who created it.




Princess Helen Kawananākoa quoted in Leilehua Yuen. “May Day is Lei Day in Hawai`i.” Ke Ola. May-June 2016.

Quotations from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin taken from “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.” Perfect Days Hawaii.

Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons:

Leis by Janine. Creative Commons Attribution.

Princess Abigail Helen Kawanākoa. Public Domain.

Lei Day Hawaii by Charles W. Bartett. Hand Colored Etching. Public Domain.

Eight strand Lei Niihau, Bishop Museum. By Heart. Creative Commons Attribution.

Still Life with Ilima Lei and Coconut by Helen Whitney Kelley. Watercolor. Public Domain.

For More Information:

Hundreds Turn Out for 89th Annual Lei Day Celebration. KITV. May 1, 2016

Lei Day Celebration. City and County of Honolulu.

Lyrics: May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. Squareone

Cara Fasone. May Day in Hawaii. Hawaiian Culture Stories.

Marie Tutko. May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. Kings Hawaiian. April 29, 2013.

Nina Wu. “Honolulu’s 90th Lei Queen and Court Crowned.” Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mar. 5, 2018.



  In 1873 Father Damien accepted a call to serve people who lived with Hansen’s Disease on an isolated peninsula called Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka`i. Father Damien spent the rest of his life serving St. Philomina Catholic Church, building houses, schools, and hospitals, caring for patients and dressing their wounds, making coffins, digging… Continue Reading

Days of Grace

Days of Grace

My recent visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art was prompted by two exhibits on women artists in Territorial Hawai`i. One exhibit focused on Women Artists in Hawai`i: 1900-1950, which encompasses most of the Territorial period. Both residents and visitors to the islands, these women had much to contribute to Honolulu’s (to me) surprisingly vibrant… Continue Reading

HARAJUKU: Hello Kitty’s Fashion Successor

HARAJUKU: Hello Kitty’s Fashion Successor

  The Honolulu Museum of Art is an oasis in busy Honolulu. The institution was founded by Anna Rice Cooke. She and her husband Charles Montegue Cooke collected art. Eventually the collection outgrew their home on Beretania Street and Anna decided to establish an art museum on the site. She wanted it to be multi-cultural… Continue Reading



  This is a story about hard work, commitment, and a family owned business marking its 100th anniversary this year. It is a Hawai`i story and an American story. It’s a story worth telling. Koichi Taniguchi left Japan in 1907. He was seventeen years old when he arrived in Honolulu. The young man worked at… Continue Reading



  Do you ever see an announcement of an upcoming exhibit or event and think, ‘I’d like to see that?’ Last April, I saw an article about Nā Kuana`ike Pāheana o Hawai`i: Artistic Perspectives of Hawai`i. It’s on display at Lyman House Museum until September. Hmmm…I’d like to see that…sometime. I promptly forgot all about it… Continue Reading



Hapa-haole technically means half-foreign, or half Hawaiian and half something else. Musically the term refers to a type of music founded on traditional Hawaiian mele with something added. James Revell Carr suggests King Kalākaua sponsored hula ku`i, a new style of hula accompanied by western instruments, including the guitar, banjo, violin, accordion, and ukulele. From… Continue Reading

Visit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook Page