Hawaiian Lei Etiquette

Hawaiian Lei Etiquette

One of Hawaii’s most iconic symbols is the lei – a wreath or garland typically made of fragrant tropical flowers. Lei can also be made of leaves, seeds, shells, nuts, and more. Whatever a lei is made of, in Hawaii they are honored as a special gift. To give a lei to someone is to express your affection for them; for that reason, you should always receive a lei with gratitude and never refuse the gift of a lei.

Hawaiian leis traditionally include all sorts of beautiful materials.

Here are a few more interesting Hawaiian Lei Etiquette rules:

  • Wear your lei so that it drapes both in front and back. Alternatively, you can wear it around your head, wrist, or hat.
  • It is considered rude to remove your lei in the presence of the person who gave it to you. If you must remove it for practical reasons, it is polite to discreetly take it off and then hang it in a place of honor for all to see.
  • It is bad luck to give pregnant women a circular lei because it symbolizes tangling of the umbilical cord. Instead, pregnant women should only be offered open-ended lei.
  • Never throw away your lei in the trash – that is like throwing the gift-giver’s affection away. Instead, discard your lei by throwing it in the ocean, burning it, or hanging it in a tree. The idea is to return the lei to the area from which it came, which is a sign of respect.
  • Lei are frequently worn at special celebrations, such as weddings. They are also given as congratulatory gifts. If you attend someone’s graduation this month, you may see their necks piled high with over a dozen lei!

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