ALB's Nature Journal

Aloha! Welcome to ALB's Nature Journal. I hope that this site will become useful for both you and I. Throughout the spring 2006 semester, I hope to become excited and intreged about the world of science. I look forward to this class sparking an interest in this field and help me to learn new fun and enjoyable ways of teaching science.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

Living here in Hawaii, we become accustomed to receiving lei for graduation, birthday's, weddings, etc. As a hula dancer, I am used to not only wearing lei but making them as well. Looking back on my elementary and high school days, I recall looking forward to May Day which is a ceremony or event put on by the school that involves a (Hawaiian) royal court, flowers, lei, hula, and other Hawaiian cultural rituals and performances. Along with the saying May Day I would frequently her "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii." What does that really mean? Come along as we explore the culture and science of this wonderful event in Hawaii.

"May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii" is a song, a custom and a festival. On the first day in May, everyone wears lei, schools hold a festival or assembly giving away prizes, hold contests for the most beautiful or creative lei, a Queen is crowned in the royal order and hula competitions are held. Most of this comes with a concert or the sound of Hawaiian entertainers strumming the Ukulele and singing Hawaiian mele (song).

The true origin of this festival is credited to a poet and artist named Don Blanding who in 1928 noticed that most of the flower lei were bing distributed at the Aloha Tower pier where boatloads of tourists were arriving on what they called "Boat Day." He wrote an article in a local paper suggesting that a holiday be created centered around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei. It was fellow writer Grace Tower Warren who came up with the idea of a holiday on May 1. Warren is also responsible for the phrase, "May Day is Lei Day."

The first record of anyone using a lei dates back to Captain Cook's crew in 1779. Early on, Blanding noticed that islanders were adorning visitors with lei but not themselves. Because of this, on May Day, he suggested, they ought to place the lei around the givers own necks just as their ancestors did. The first May Day was so successful that the following year it was made official and since then Hawaiian Islanders have been celebrating this special day. Today in the islands, May Day is celebrated in different ways and on different days of May or the last week in April; dependent on the island you live.

As far as making lei, it is a science in its self. The flowers you use, the time of day you pick them, the rituals you must do all need to be taken into account. When making lei, my kumu (teacher) would remind us of three things; take only what you need (don't be greedy), don't leave the tree bare (leave some behind), and always thank and take care of your source (be grateful, you never know when you'll need more).


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