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

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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.

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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.

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Here 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.

NEXT PAGE: Kauai, Maui and Oahu celebrations tied to Lei Day

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