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A woman wearing a Hawaiian lei on her head

Hawaiiana Lei Greetings on the Big Island

What is a Hawaiian Lei Greeting?

A lei greeting is a symbol of welcome and aloha. The best way to get a lei is to give one or, if you are lucky enough to receive one on your travels, know that it is a symbol of love and friendship as well as reverence for the traditions, culture, and land that gave us such an incomparable gift – Hawaii.

Lei are not only symbols of welcoming and aloha, but also can be given as gifts to loved ones or celebratory events. Used as adornments, many older lei are woven with traditional hala (naupaka), plumeria, maile, and other native plants from Hawaii.

The History Behind the Lei

The tradition of lei has a rich history in Hawaii. The early settlers used various materials, including flowers, leaves, seeds, nuts, and shells to create their fragrant lei. Today the tradition continues with various available materials including the traditional Maile lei made from strips of native vine or kukui nut and hand braided into graceful wreaths.

The Hawaiian lei is symbolic of many things, but its most significant use was as a peace offering and celebration between opposing chiefs. The Maile lei is associated with good luck, peace, love, and life. Gifts of kukui nut lei are reserved only for Aliʻi (Hawaiian royalty).