Last week I saw a news clip from Hawaii announcing that May 1 was Lei Day. Yes, there is a day each year set aside to honor that beautiful floral garland. Who among us has been lucky enough to be able to visit Hawaii and not had a lei put around his or her neck. Who among us has not left Hawaii, carrying one, two or three leis, purchased at the airport for our favorite people back home only to find, on arrival, that they were crushed or pulled apart on the way back. That has happened to me each time I tried to do it. And I know if I ever get back to that beautiful place, I will certainly pick one up for a special friend.
Before starting to write this evening, I took up my copy of “Chase’s Calendar of Events.” It is updated annually and, my 2018 copy boasts nearly 800 pages with 12,500, events. I did not know that that May 1, each year, celebrates the beginnings of National Vinegar Month, National Motorcycle Month and National Hamburger Month (National Hot Dog Month is in June). Days celebrated on that one day, besides the lei, include May Day and Mother Goose Day. But I digress. Let us talk about Lei Day. Of course, it is primarily celebrated in Hawaii.
In its simplest form the lei is a garland of flowers strung on to a heavy string and sold to people, hoping to have a memento for a loved one, as they depart the isles after a wonderful vacation.
But there is much more to this symbol of Hawaii than that ring of purple flowers to be taken home to the mainland. There is a fascinating history and a lot of symbolism, not only for Hawaii itself, but for each of the islands, which have their own lore, favorite flowers and accessories. The flower that we most often see is an orchid, specifically the Vanda orchid. It is a prolific producer and most plants, unlike other orchids that bloom only once or twice a year, blooms throughout the 12 months.