This Hawaiian icon has become to be known as an expression of many things from congratulations to romance. It’s an inexpensive and traditional way to mark a special occasion, show affection and offer respect.
Airport lei greetings are a wonderful and memorable experience. Nowhere else on earth can you be welcomed off a long transpacific flight into an airport that has flower-scented air and hoards of lei greeters with arms draped with colorful fresh flower garlands. Arrange a greeting in advance and you will be one of the lucky recipients to have one draped over your neck. Be sure to get a picture for posterity since it’s a moment that defines your arrival in the islands forever.
Aside from airport arrivals, lei are most popularly known as an expression of love. Lei made of delicate tropical fragrant flowers such as pikake, ginger or pua kenikeni are typically meant for sweethearts, female recipients and especially on a first date or prom. Strands of these “romance” flowers are correctly presented in strands of uneven numbers. The more strands mean a greater love interest, and a double strand sends an unforgettable message from an admirer with admirable intentions.
Wearing and giving lei has an etiquette all their own. Here are a few do’s and don’ts when giving and receiving lei.
1) A fresh flower lei almost always is preferred over artificial flower lei.
2) Present only a open lei to an expectant mother. Hawaiian superstition says that a closed or circular lei worn by an expectant mother endangers the unborn child.
3) Never give a lei made of ti leaves to a politician or athlete before a race or competition. Such a lei is considered bad luck in these situations.
4) Always present a lei with a kiss.
5) Always receive a lei with a kiss, and offer a quick embrace as a sign of sincere appreciation.
6) Never remove a lei while in the presence of others. To do so is considered extremely rude.
7) Present an unscented lei if your recipient suffers from flower allergies. Dendrobium orchid and ti leis are a good choice.