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 Hawaii Travel Guide by Kathie Fry

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Hawaii Travel --> About Hawaii --> Culture --> Lei --> How to Give and Receive a Lei

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How to Give and Receive a Lei

A lei can be a symbol of love, friendship, respect, appreciation, or accomplishment. They are traditionally worn to celebrate graduations, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, mother's day, father's day, the Lei Day holiday, and many other special occasions. It is also traditional to present a lei to a person who is arriving in or leaving Hawaii.

How to Give a Lei
A lei is traditionally presented to another person by placing it around their neck and giving them a kiss on the cheek. Some say a more traditional and respectful way to present a lei is for the giver to to bow slightly and raise the lei in front of themselves, at about heart level, letting the other person take the lei and place it around their own neck. In modern times it is more common for the giver to place the lei around the recipient's neck along with a kiss. Note that it is considered bad luck to wear a lei you plan to give to someone else or for a pregnant woman to wear a closed a lei. Any lei can be made open and pregnant women should always wear an open lei.

How to Receive a Lei
It is disrespectful to decline a lei if one is offered to you. If you are allergic to any of the lei materials, or if you are not in a position to wear a lei that is presented (for example if you are playing amusical instrument) the lei should be put in a place of honor to show respect for the giver. A lei can be worn for any occasion or no occasion and it is fine for you to purchase your own lei.

How to Wear a Lei
A closed lei should be worn on the shoulders with half of it hanging in the front and half hanging in the back. An open lei is a lei with the ends left untied. An open lei should be centered on the back of the neck and worn with the ends hanging down the front. It is fine to wear more then one lei at a time. Graduating scholars often wear so many lei they can hardly see above them. If a lei has a ribbon it can be worn at the back of the neck or it can be won on the right side (if single) or on the left side (if married or unavailable). At graduation ceremonies sometimes the bow is moved from one side to the other along with the tassle of the graduation cap.

How to Store a Lei
To store a fresh flower lei, mist it gently with water, place it loosely in a plastic bag, and store it in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator. If a lei is stored in the main refrigerator compartment it can get too cold and the flowers can become damaged.

How to Dispose of a Lei
A lei is traditionally disposed of by returning it to the earth. It is considered disrespectful to throw a lei in the trash. Remove the string from the lei so wildlife will not become entangled in it and either scatter, bury, or burn the flowers or toss them into the sea or other body of water.

See also:
- How to Make a Fresh Flower Lei
- Tropical Flower Shops on the Web
- Lei Greeting Services in Hawaii
- May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

Related Links
About Hawaii
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Hawaii for Visitors

A NOTE FROM KATHIE: If you have any corrections or updates to the information on this page or if you would like us to add any information or links, please send a message to the email address on our contacts page.

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