Lei Day 2023 is an annual event taking places across the Hawaiian islands celebrating one of the essences of local culture: the traditional leis in Hawaii. Surprisingly, it all began with a simple desire for a holiday to celebrate the lei, and with a huge backing, the idea, born from a local Honolulu newspaper writer, was transformed into reality. Lei Day in Hawaii, falling on the popular international holiday called May Day, is a fun and fresh fete involving people of all ages celebrating a simple yet extremely meaningful part of Hawaiian culture. Today, Lei Day celebrations involve several aspects of Hawaiian culture melded together in a day-long island party and is the best of all things to do in May.
Lei Day History
Poet and writer Don Blanding conceived the original idea that Hawaii’s long-time tradition of lei making and wearing be transposed into an official cultural festival. Then another writer by the name Grace Tower Warren, took it one step further, proclaiming that this Hawaiian festival should fall on May Day, an official holiday celebrated around the world. Warren coined the famous phrase May Day is Lei Day. Lei Day in Hawaii is traditionally a major event in Honolulu where it was first inaugurated in 1927 and has since grown into one of the most wildly popular events within the islands that included festivities surrounding lei making, music, traditional hula, contests, exhibits, and more. Lei Day in Hawaii became an official state holiday the next year in 1929.
Lei Day Facts
Oahu features the biggest and best Lei Day celebrations which are commemorated within Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. The most famous event is the Lei Contest, which receives entries from both children and adults, put on display in the local mausoleum in Nuuanu the next day. There is also the crowning of the 2023 Lei Queen, lei-making workshops, traditional Lei exhibits, and more. Lei Day 2023 knows no boundaries: everyone from small children to big-shot executives participate, at least by wearing a lei.
Lei Day Locations
Though known to be the celebrated with the most fervor on Oahu, Lei Day celebrations kick off across the state—Kauai, Big Island, Maui, and Lanai—each with their own rendition of celebrations.
Image: Tor Johnson