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It’s Lei Day on Anjou!

I recently took a magical trip to Hawaii and in between mai tais by the harbor, sun-faced dips in warm and salty Waikiki, and balmy nights listening to the gentle strums of the ukulele, I indelibly became quite intrigued by the intricacy and variation of the oh-so-typical Hawaiian accessory:  the lei.

Lei making has long since been a tradition in Hawaii; so much so that there is a state Lei Day on May 1st of every year (attend a lei making class at Waikiki Community Center on the island of Oahu to celebrate!).  There are so many different ways to craft leis, the most popular being the kui method:

Kui – pierce, piercing stitch. A method of making a lei by sewing or piercing the decorative material with a needle and stringing it onto a thread.  (wikipedia)

This kui style lei is made from orchids, which somehow have been surviving beautifully in my fridge.

Another style that I found to be peculiarly exquisite is the Micronesian style of braiding white ginger blossoms into a flat, woven ring.

Although the ginger blossoms’ survival skills are lacking, this lei was cake to carry onto the plane because it literally rolls up to fit the palm of your hand.  Not to mention that it is incredibly unique and most people on the “mainland” have never seen its type.

Rather than discuss the technique of lei making, I thought I’d post a video of a lei maker in action.  This video is an amazing instructional on how to create a double lei, a more 3-D type lei that involves threading flowers at different angles.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the big ole needle that she’s using to thread the flowers is a steel lei needle.

There are so many beautiful traditions and superstitions and tales that go with lei making (not to mention its ubiquitous appearance in hula).  I wish I could include them all in this post, but even endless scrolling would be worn out.  I’ll leave you with the imagery of a hula and instrumental performance at an aha ‘aina on the Ocean Lawn of The Royal Hawaiian.  Although the hula dancer’s lei isn’t the star, it certainly is integral to both the story and Hawaiian culture.

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