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Hawaiian Flower Lei
Lei giving is part of living in Hawaii. Leis represent the aloha spirit. They are given for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, graduation, weddings, anniversaries, for special guests at meetings on Sunday, and of course, when tourists arrive or family comes to visit.
In our yard we had a white plumeria tree and also a pink plumeria tree. I would send my granddaughter out to pick the flowers on the lower branches, or she would use a broom to knock the blossoms off the higher limbs, and then gather them and put them in a plastic bag with a little water spritz to keep them fresh. Then we would sit down together and make our very own lei to share with someone.
We would take a large stainless steel needle (being very careful not to prick ourselves) and use fishing line or strong thread to make our lei (dental floss can also be used). It would take about 50 plumeria blossoms for a simple 40-inch lei. You just put them on one after another, threading through the center of the flower. When you have finished stringing all the flowers, tie off the thread/line and cut off any excess.We would often add a pretty matching ribbon. This is a fun time to visit, bond and enjoy nature as well as saving money from buying a lei from the market.
Plumerias are the easiest flower leis to make because they have fairly large holes right in the middle. The only disadvantage of plumeria leis is that they discolor quite quickly, so you need to give them away to someone you would like to honor sooner rather than later. Plumeria leis smell and look beautiful!
Other flowers that can be used for leis that grow in Hawaii are, ‘Awapuhi ke’oke’o (White Ginger), Walahe’e Haole (Mock Orange), ‘Ilima (Hibiscus), Kiele (Gardenia), Kupalo (Tuberose), Kepalo (Bouganvilla), Loke (Roses), Male (Stephanosis), 'Ohai ‘Ali’I (Poinciana), ‘Okika (Orchid), and Pikake (Arabian Jasmine).
You can also mix flowers, like using small roses between gardenias, and adding a bit of greenery (like in the picture of the lei above).
Tips about leis:
If you are offered a lei by someone, do not refuse it. If you are allergic to flowers, at least let them put it on you and then politely tell them that you are allergic, but that you really appreciate it. You can give it to someone else that is not allergic. They will understand.
Usually leis can be worn multiple times depending on their condition. Most fresh leis can be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to keep it fresh. Plumeria leis are usually good for two days, while some other flower leis may last much longer. Plumeria leis will not last when put in the refrigerator.
Anciently, visitors to the islands would throw their leis in the sea as they departed on their ships. If the lei drifted back to the shore where it came from, that meant they would return again someday.
Do not throw a lei in the trash when you are finished using it. Because it was a living thing, place it where it can return to the earth. However, cut the string so animals will not be strangled by it. Aloha!