May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii, and it happens this weekend. Here's where to go for celebrations.

Sunday is May 1 — May Day. Around the world the celebrations range from end-of-winter Maypole dancing to rallies commemorating workers’ union efforts. Here in Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day — a day dedicated to celebrating Hawaiian culture.

You’ll find a few more music and hula shows on May Day, popular with residents and visitors. And, on this day in particular, you’ll see our symbol of aloha — fresh, fragrant and colorful lei — draped over shoulders everywhere in the Islands. 

One of the largest celebrations is Honolulu’s official city Lei Day festivities at Waikiki’s Kapiolani Park Bandstand, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

If you go, make sure your camera is ready for the investiture of the 2011 Lei Queen and her court, set for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Selection of Lei Day royalty is based on lei-making skills, hula, poise and other attributes, according to the pageant’s organizers. You’ll also want to snap photos of stunning entries in the Lei Contest, which will be displayed from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

If you would like to try your hand at lei making in advance of the big day, free workshops are now under way in Kailua and Kaneohe. Participants are asked to bring their own fresh flowers and greenery. For more details, click here.

Lei Day_May Day_Hawaii_Oahu_Big Island_Maui_Kauai

The origins of Hawaii’s celebration of May Day as Lei Day date back to 1927, when Honolulu Star-Bulletin writer Don Blanding advocated for the creation of a day dedicated to honoring lei-making and the custom of wearing lei. Blanding’s co-worker at the newspaper, columnist Grace Tower Warren, suggested holding the celebration on May 1 and coined the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.”

Soon after, musician Leonard “Red” Hawk, and his wife Ruth Hawk, penned the tune May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. The ditty was reportedly first presented as a foxtrot but was rearranged in the late 1920s as a Hawaiian mele for hula.

Lei Day_May Day_Hawaii_Oahu_Big Island_Maui_KauaiHere and on the next page, you’ll find a list of Lei Day events and activities statewide.



Lei Day, He Moolelo O Na Lei

This free event, in its sixth year, focuses on the history and culture tied to the  “story of the lei.” There will be lei-making demonstrations as well as Hawaiian music and hula performances from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sun., May 1, in Kalakaua Park in Hilo. For additional information, call (808) 961-5711, or click here.

Lei Day Festival

Volcano Art Center, in Volcano, will host this family-oriented event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sun., May 1. Festivities include a lei-making contest and display, hula and ukulele performances, talk-story sessions, and guided tours of the native forest area. For more information, call (808) 967-8222, or click here.


Lei Day_May Day_Hawaii_Oahu_Big Island_Maui_Kauai
Na Lei Hiwahiwa Eha

This annual celebration of the beauty of the lei, set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fri., May 6, at Kauai Beach Resort in Lihue, will feature contemporary Hawaiian music and hula performances. It is organized by the Malie Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to educate, promote, preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian culture. For additional information, call (808) 652-4497, or click here.

Brothers Cazimero May Day-Lei Day Concert

Robert and Roland Cazimero — perhaps more famously known as the Brothers Caz — will perform contemporary Hawaiian music from 7:30 p.m. on Sun., May 1, at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului. The concert will include chants, hula and songs from the duo’s many musical recordings. Tickets range from $12 to $37 (plus fees). For more details, call (808) 242-7469, or click here.

Lei Day_May Day_Hawaii_Oahu_Big Island_Maui_Kauai
84th Annual Lei Day Celebration

This annual Waikiki tradition — from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sun., May 1, at Kapiolani Park’s bandstand area — features the coronation of the lei queen, an exhibit of intricately woven entries in the annual lei-making contest, plenty of Hawaiian music and hula performances, Royal Hawaiian Band and steel guitar concerts, Hawaiian craft displays, food booths and activities for children. For more information about the free celebration — presented by the City and County of Honolulu and Hawaiian Electric Company, click here.

Lei Day_May Day_Hawaii_Oahu_Big Island_Maui_Kauai
Lei of Stars

This musical event, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sun., May 1, at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, will honor the 2010 Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame inductees including: hula master Pat Namaka Bacon and musicians Andy Cummings, Ernest Kaai, Richard Kauhi Quartet and Kealii Reichel. The concert will include performances by Reichel, O’Brian Eselu, the Kaai Ohana, Andrea Cummings, Kuuipo Kumukahi and the Hawaiian Music Hall of Famer Serenaders. Tickets range from $100 to $165. For additional information, click here.


Photos: Queens' Marketplace (top photo), Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)