The lei is a symbol of friendship, goodwill, and aloha.
The Lei, made infamous in the Hawaiian islands does not have its origins in Hawai`i. It was a common practice to wear a wreath of leaves and or flowers since antiquity in a multitude of countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific rim nations and even the first nations people of the Americas. The lei in the Hawaiian culture and throughout most of Polynesia is an unspoken, outward expression of aloha. The lyrics of a song translates aloha this way.
Aloha means we welcome you, it means more than words can say.
Aloha means good luck to you, goodnight at the close of day.
Itʻs just like a love song with a haunting sweet refrain.
Bringing you joy, bringing you pain.
Aloha means farewell to you until we meet again.
These are only a few meanings as there are no restrictions to the symbolic meaning they hold. The styles of lei and what they are composed of is just as non-restrictive. The idea is that although the lei lasts only a while, the thought lasts forever. This tradition is the theme throughout the archipelago on Lei Day.
Lei Day is an islands-wide celebration in Hawai`i. In 1929 Lei Day was officially recognized as a holiday. However, the first celebration was in the year of 1927 and was held at Bank of Hawai`i, then moved to town hall, and finally moved to Kapi’olani Park. In 1928 writer Don Blanding wrote an article in the local newspaper stating that there should be a holiday celebrated around the wearing and production of lei. Thus the tradition continues and in 2009, the celebration made itʻs debut in Tokyo along with choosing a Lei Queen.
The first lei Queen, Miss Nina Bowman, was crowned by Honolulu Mayor Charles Arnold in 1928. A Lei Court enhances the Lei Day Celebration. The Lei Queen Pageant held in Japan is particularly an Island form of a beauty pageant . . . sort of a “Miss America meets the Merrie Monarch.” The contestant who best conveys the love for the Hawaiian culture through, hula, lei making and four other categories takes home the crown. The Lei Queen and Court are selected from one of the four rotating age groups and during their one year reign, make appearances throughout Japan and parts of Asia as Ambassadors of Aloha. The Queenʻs have traveled to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Hawai`i on several occasions, even bringing home a trophy of the most beautiful float from the King Kamehameha Day Paradeʻs 100th Anniversary.