| Leis ::: A piece of Hawaii|
|Leis are an expression of Polynesian and Hawaiian culture that combine many meanings. A lei can mean "welcome", "goodbye", "love" and "thank you". We initiate you into the world of Kui, Wui, Hili, Wili and Humu-humu ...|
The tradition of making lei was brought to Hawaii by the Polynesians. In double-hulled canoes with sails made of coconut fabric (the forerunners of the modern catamarans) they set out on the arduous journey across the Pacific between 300 and 500 AD. It is believed that they fled from armed conflict. 4000 km away from their homeland they landed in Hawaii, where they paid homage to their gods and cultivated their rich culture for centuries, isolated from the rest of the world. It was not until 1778 that the archipelago was discovered by James Cook, the first "white man".
The art of making leis was an important part of their culture. These were originally made from vast quantities of freshly picked flowers, leaves, fruits, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers and even bones and teeth from various animals, which were then artfully and lavishly threaded together .
The colors and the number of flowers on the flower chains played an important role. The rib of a coconut leaf served as a needle, threads were extracted from a bush. The traditional stringing of flowers is called kui. By weaving flowers you get a hili. If you twist the flowers, you get a wili. Humu-humu or papa are connected by sewing. As soon as a lei is attached to a background, it is called Haku. The latter is usually worn on the head. The wearing of leis made of feathers was reserved for the upper box, as was decorating with leis made of rare shells.
The natives wore leis as jewelry and to distinguish themselves from others. Each chain was then offered to their gods. The "Maile Lei" was the most important of its kind. Among other things, it was used to seal a peace agreement between two tribal leaders. Maile is a type of wine.
| At the turn of the century there was something like a "lei industry". In Honolulu, mostly female shop assistants were part of the cityscape. Back then, the flowers for the leis were taken from their own garden or from nature. Commercial breeding was not yet available.|
In November 1927, a Matson Navigation Company's luxury cruise ship took the California Honolulu route into its program. This resulted in the growth of tourism and increased sales of the Leis. The competition from the lei sellers increased. The first “lei sellers” association was founded around 1933 in order to counteract ever increasing competition and to regulate sales.
The leis became known worldwide through tourism and became a symbol of Hawaii. When visitors came to the Hawaiian Islands by sea at the beginning, they were welcomed at the piers with wreaths of flowers. Departing people threw their flower chains into the sea, hoping, like the Leis, to come back to the islands. Later tourists were greeted with leis at the airport. Today only package tourists are received in this way by their tour operators.
Everyone can wear leis, for any occasion or for no particular reason. They are worn around the head or over the shoulders. There are some unspoken rules for using them. A lei should always be accepted as it signals a warm welcome and affection. It is considered unkind to take off a lei in the presence of the deliverer.
There are open leis and closed ones. The closed ones stand for intimate love and symbolize the embrace of a loved one - not always human. The open leis are worn by people from whom we can learn something. The knowledge of those can flow unhindered from both ends. Hardly a birthday, wedding or other Hawaiian celebration is celebrated today without the lei.
The Hawaiian flower farms grow traditional flowers such as plumeria and tuberose. Unfortunately, the number of flower farms has almost halved from 41 since 1992. Imports from Thailand are cheaper and make life difficult for Hawaiian companies. Even if orchids from Hawaii have a much more intense scent than older imported flowers.
There are many types of leis today. Influences of the modern flow into the production. The production is done by hand. It can take up to 40 hours to make a wreath from around 2000 feathers.
"Lei Day" is celebrated annually in Hawaii on May 1st. The use of flower leis is a Hawaiian tradition that has survived to this day despite immense cultural changes.
If you fancy a piece of Hawaii, you can order original 'Aloha Hawaii Leis' with fabric flowers in the DAILY DOSE shop.