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The Hawaiian Lei

Couple wearing LeisOne of the oldest traditions in Hawaii is the giving or exchanging of leis. Whether a fragrant flower lei, or a nonperishable lei (seed, shell, feather, paper, or ribbon), the lei is an expression of one’s “Aloha” (love, caring, kindness) for that special person.

Professionals use many different methods to make leis. Leis can be made by the stringing method, where “kui” materials are pierced one-by-one through the center sides and held together by a single string. Other methods include “wili,” the winding method, “hili,” the braiding, plaiting method, “haku” arranged in a braid, “kipuu,” the knotting method, and “humu-papa,” the method of sewing to a foundation. In the wedding lei exchange ceremony, the man and woman take turns placing a lei around the neck of the other (always with a kiss), while the officiant speaks of the significance. This ritual lends an elegant and deeply intimate note to your ceremony, one you will remember for a very long time.

There are many types of leis from which to choose, but you can’t go wrong with a maile. A lei of the “royal” open-leafed maile is used only at special occasions and celebrations. The leaves dry wonderfully and retain their aroma.

Although not all fragrant leis will remain fresh, remember that the thought accompanying each lei is an expression of love, a truly Hawaiian custom, and a sentiment that lasts forever.

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