May first is fast approaching, which means a day full of hula and lei celebrations across the islands. The giving of the lei symbolizes aloha (which means love), care and appreciation. On May Day Lei Day, islanders give lei of all colors, scents, and designs to their loved ones. Schools have May Day celebrations with a royal court and hula dancers. The city of Honolulu hosts a giant, free festival in Kap'iolani Park every year, regardless of which day May 1st falls on. Big Island and Kauai have free celebrations, as well, each with a little something different to offer.
In 1928 artist and poet Don Blanding wrote an article in a local newspaper suggesting that a holiday be created to pay homage to the Hawaiian lei tradition. Fellow writer Grace Tower Warren decided May 1st would be the perfect day to commemorate lei-giving in unison with May Day. The idea gained popularity and the holiday was made official in 1929. Now, schools all over the state hold May Day Lei Day celebrations with a Lei Queen and her court, extensive hula dancing, and Hawaiian food.
The holiday is most strongly recognized on Oahu at the festival in Kapi'olani Park tucked between Waikiki and Diamond Head Crater. It lasts all day Saturday from 9 to 5:30 pm. The famous Royal Hawaiian Bands kicks off the day with hula music and dancing. The Lei Queen and court will be presented shortly thereafter. The Queen will sit at her throne for the rest of the colorful day, which continues with impeccable hula dancing and a few Jawaiian pop acts. The hungry can support local restaurants by munching on local grinds, and the keiki can partake in one of the many keiki activities. After the lei are judged and awarded ribbons, the Lei Contest Exhibit opens to the public from 12:30-5:30. The words "impressive" and "beautiful" don't do the lei justice. It features hundreds of lei from the state's best lei-makers, enshrining this centuries-old tradition and its delicate attention to detail and creativity that only the best craftsmen can achieve. Pikake, plumeria, orchid, ti leaf and maile fill the seemingly endless exhibit walk. It is living art at its finest.
The Big Island recognizes May Day Lei Day at the celebration held at Queen's Marketplace in Waikoloa. From noon to 6, attendees can peruse the lei contest exhibit, learn how to make their own lei, weave coconut frond mats, watch the island's best hula dancers, and of course, watch the coronation of the Queen.
In Kauai, lei will be showcased and celebrated at the 30th annual Kauai Museum May Day Celebration and Lei Contest in Lihu'e. Admission is free, and the fun lasts from 11 am to 4 pm. Other than the lei contest exhibit, visitors can make their own lei and partake in the silent and live auctions.
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