May Day is Lei Day
Conceived by the poet Don Blanding on May 1 in 1929, Lei Day is a Hawaiian festival that celebrates the tradition of making and wearing leis. Hawaiians wore these flower garlands in ancient times to represent their rank and wealth. Today leis are used to celebrate many occasions, with each flower telling a story. Here are three popular blooms that embody the spirit of aloha and info on local places to find them. Just make sure to place your order early.
Hawaiian Name Melia
Known as the “lei flower,” this sweet-smelling bloom adds a delicious scent and full body to your garland; its waxy, sturdy aspect also makes it a popular choice. A variety of colors, from bright pink to soft white and yellow, can give your lei a vibrant look. Plumerias symbolize positivity and are used both for celebrations and for decorating graves.
$25 at Hi’iaka Florist (SF), noveltylei.com
Hawaiian Name Okika
For a more refined look, no bloom beats the orchid. What these beauties lack in scent they make up for in durability, longevity and stunning structure; the bright lavender color is especially beloved. Symbolizing love and affection, the elegant blooms are favored for leis celebrating graduations, weddings and anniversaries and are a great option for people sensitive to fragrance.
$65 at Nancy Ann’s Flower Market (Sausalito), nancyannsflowermarket.com
Hawaiian Name Kupaloke
These white flowers with blooms similar to a small rose are one of the most aromatic and delicate lei blossoms available; you only need a handful to make your entire garland smell intoxicatingly sweet. Though the tuberose holds its fragrance long after being plucked, it wilts more quickly than most. The flower symbolizes love, congratulation, friendship and commitment and hence is a favorite for weddings.
$48 at Mill Valley Flowers (Mill Valley), millvalleyflowers.com