Hawaiian leis are a sign of welcome, heritage, celebration and much, much more. They have dozens of uses, and Oriental Trading has so many options for you to choose from to get the leis perfect for your cause and just right for your budget. Learning about the uses, history and origin of traditional Hawaiian leis might help you find just the right ones!
Graduation Leis, Wedding Leis & So Many Other Uses!
There are many other uses for Hawaiian leis, and most prominent is a celebration. Using Hawaiian leis for graduation is incredibly popular, to the point where some graduates with Hawaiian heritage will have so many leis piled around their neck that they'll barely be able to see over the top of them. Often, Hawaiian leis for prom or other school dances as a sign of welcome and honor. Hand them out to your prom court or homecoming court instead of sashes. Kukui nut leis once symbolized royalty, so these dark brown leis would be perfect for your homecoming or prom royalty.
Check out Hawaiian leis for a party, too! They're great luau party favors at a luau or beach themed party or celebration, whether you're in Hawaii or far, far from any tropical beach. Hand them out to guests as they arrive, along with a warm "Aloha," and award more elaborate Hawaiian leis as prizes to the winners of party games or to the best hula dancer. Really get your guests into the Hawaiian luau mood with Hawaiian leis and grass skirts for everyone to wear. Your pictures from your party will be "Maika'i," or excellent!
Hawaiian Flower Necklace - History & Meaning
Early Polynesian travelers brought the first leis to the Hawaiian Islands after a long sea voyage. Using the stars to navigate, they arrived on the islands in simple sailing canoes, bringing with them their customs and traditions, including lei necklaces. Hawaiian leis are traditionally made of just about anything those early settlers could find, including flowers, leaves, nuts, seeds, shells, feathers and animal bone and teeth. Today, Hawaiian leis are made of flowers, leaves, shells and more, though they are often made of manufactured materials. Faux or real hibiscus and orchids are often used in today's Hawaiian Islands leis.
For those early settlers, Hawaiian leis represented a status symbol, a way of distinguishing themselves and a way to adorn themselves. Leis also had sacred and political meanings - leis were used to signify peace agreements. Opposing chiefs would intertwine the green Maile vine to create a Maile lei, which represented peace between the groups. Some of these meanings of leis are still relevant today, but today, the meaning of Hawaiian leis is more about welcome and celebration.
A visitor to the Hawaiians Islands is often greeted with a lei, whether it's at the airport or at the pier where a cruise ship comes in. A Hawaiian will greet the "malihini," which means visitor or newcomer in Hawaiian, with "Aloha" and gently drape a fresh lei over their shoulders. These welcome leis are often made from orchids, and they're usually purple, green and white. Lei etiquette says that to refuse a lei is an insult and it's rude to remove a lei when the person who gave it to you is still present, so take care when you're kicking off your Hawaiian vacation. Traditionally, Hawaiian tourists would toss their leis into the sea as their ship home departed, hoping that they - like the leis - would return to Hawaii someday.
One use of leis that has carried on from the early Hawaiian settlers is to seal unions. Back then, Hawaiians didn't have a formal wedding ceremony, like we do today. A couple in love, adorned with leis symbolizing their family and their social status, would stand before the "kahuna" (an expert or priest) and would bind their hands with a maile lei. Today, Hawaiian leis for a wedding are usually more about decoration. Dreaming of a beach wedding at sunset in Hawaii? Complete the look of your destination wedding with Hawaiian leis for the hair of the bride and Hawaiian leis as headbands for the bridesmaids. Use Hawaiian leis and flowers for the flower girls to carry down the aisle. Don't leave out the groom; a traditional maile lei will look perfect no matter his wedding attire.
Hawaiian leis come in such a wide variety of colors, but what do the colors of leis mean? It can vary, but what Hawaiian leis are made of usually means more. Orchid leis, which usually are purple, green and white, often are given as a welcome to a visitor or as a thank you. Green maile leis, which are mostly leafy, are great gifts at graduations, weddings and anniversaries. Kukui nut leis symbolize royalty but also can be used to show appreciation and respect. Ilima flower leis, which often are orange, red and brown, symbolize love, as do white, pink and red carnation leis. The carnation leis are used often at weddings and anniversaries. Use Hawaiian leis as necklaces instead of jewels to really make your wedding stand out!
Hawaiian Leis Bulk Options
No matter what you're celebrating, you can pick any color of Hawaiian lei. Find leis that fit with your color scheme, your occasion and your budget right here from Oriental Trading. And you can buy them in bulk for every occasion. You'll say "Mahalo" (thank you) when you check out this selection!