May Day is Lei Day

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While May 1 – or May Day – is celebrated in many places around the world, there is nowhere that celebrates this special day like Hawaii. Here in the islands, May Day is Lei Day thanks to two Honolulu writers Don Blanding and Grace Tower Warren. In 1928, Blanding suggested that Hawaii should create a holiday around the custom of lei making and wearing lei and Warren proposed that the holiday take place on May 1. The first Lei Day was held in Hawaii on May 1, 1928, with the King Kamehameha I statue in Honolulu draped in long lei and everyone wearing lei of their choice. It became an official holiday the following year and has been celebrated throughout the islands ever since. There is even a song written by Leonard “Red” Hawk and his wife Ruth called “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” that celebrates and memorializes this special day. Today, May Day festivities honor not just lei making, but the many special aspects of Hawaiian culture. Each island has its own celebrations and nearly all schools have May Day pageants. On Oahu, many Lei Day activities are centered at Kapiolani Park, near the end of Waikiki. There visitors can see displays of lei, demonstrations of hula, the selection of the Lei Queen and her court and more. For additional information on Lei Day activities, visit Honolulu.gov. And remember, if you are in the islands on May 1, be sure to wear your favorite lei.

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