The tropical ecosystem of Hawaii is home to a wide range of plants, which compete in beauty and color. But Hawaiian people not only admire the flowers in their natural environment, but they also wear them as jewelry. Wearing flowers is a very old Hawaiian tradition and is full of history and significance.

The Hawaiian lei

The history of Hawaiian lei, the flower garlands wore around the neck, starts with the first Polynesians who came from Tahiti. The garlands were made of flowers, leaves, feathers, nuts, seeds, shells, and even bones and teeth of animals. They were meant to make people look beautiful and different from one another, show wealth and rank, and even as a royal symbol. But lei had deeper meanings too. It was used in spiritual rituals and as a symbol of peace.

Nowadays the lei is probably the most popular Hawaiian symbol. Tourists have been welcomed with lei in Hawaii since the beginning of the XXth century. It’s also part of many rituals and local beliefs. For example, when someone is leaving the islands, the person throws a lei in the ocean to make sure they would return someday. Since 1928, Hawaii has an official Lei Day, which is celebrated every year on May, 1st.

You can wear a lei in Hawaii on many occasions and even without an occasion. You can make the lei yourself, buy it, or receive it as a welcome gesture. However, it’s impolite to refuse a lei or to remove it in the presence of the person who gave it to you. But who could refuse such a beautiful garland made from tropical flowers in bright colors?

Wearing flowers behind the ear

The lei isn’t the only way you can wear flowers in Hawaii. You can wear them around the head (haku, a shorter lei), around the hips (hei), on the wrist or ankle (kupe’e), in the hair, or behind the ear. But make sure you choose the ear according to your marital status. The Hawaiian tradition says married or in a relationship women wear the flower behind the left ear, while single women wear the flower behind the right ear.

The most popular flowers wore behind the ear are Plumeria flowers. You can see them on hula dancers as they’re part of their costumes. Plumeria flowers signify grace, beauty, a new beginning, creativity, or charm.

The Hawaiian tradition of wearing flowers is deeply connected with the spirit of Aloha, with the Hawaiian relation with nature and the universe. It speaks about beauty and grace, gratitude, and love. It has deep meanings and spiritual connections. Discover the true face of Hawaii by embracing and respecting its traditions.