“May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii Nei.” This popular phrase in the islands prevents anyone from forgetting this special day. It was Don Blanding, a writer and poet, who first suggested that a holiday should be dedicated to the beautiful Hawaiian tradition of making and wearing lei. But it was Grace Tower Warren, also a writer, who came up with the idea that the holiday should coincide with May Day. And so since the first Lei Day on May 1, 1928, Hawaii has continued the annual celebration to this very day.
Celebrate May Day on Oahu
Winning lei at the Annual May Day Lei Contest. Photo: Joel.
Oahu hosts the state’s largest May Day event. No matter which day of the week May 1 falls on, the Lei Day Celebration takes place at Queen Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. The annual event features live music, a stunning lei contest exhibit, hula performances, demonstrations, craft and food vendors, and more. This event is free and open to the public. To check out our photos from previous years’ celebrations, click here.
Left: Maile lei. Center: Ashley Gatto who is originally from Canada, making a haku lei at the Lei day festival. Right: Samples of base materials used for making haku lei. Photos courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.
Each year, the Lei Queen and her court preside over the festivities. Lei Queen are selected based on their lei making skills, hula proficiency, and Hawaiian language fluency. Expect to see the most beautiful lei in the world at the annual Lei Day lei competition held and displayed at the park. Also expect excellent live music by some of Hawaii’s top performers.
2015 Lei Day Queen Pomaikai Akiona (left) and Princess Whitney Miyahira (right). Photo courtesy of Pomaikai Akiona.