HONOLULU (KHON2) – We all make use of our island roadways, but when was the last time you paid attention to their given names? 

Did you know you could learn more about Hawaiʻi’s history if you did? 

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Our weekly “Aloha Authentic” segment highlights various streets across the islands; so, we can dig into those names and, in turn, learn something new. 

This week, we learn of the origins of May Day.

In the ahupuaʻa of Honolulu, which lies in the moku of Kona here on Oʻahu, stands a short street that is named after a Hawaiian garland. 

We are talking about Lei Road.

The Hawaiian word lei can be translated as “garland, wreath or necklace of flowers, feathers or other materials.”

lei for your head is called a lei poʻopoʻo meaning “head.”

lei for your neck is called lei ʻāʻī, ʻāʻī meaning “neck.”

lei for your wrists and/or ankles are known as kūpeʻe.

In ancient days, Hawaiians believed their gods resided throughout nature. 

By weaving and wearing a lei, the energies and physical manifestations of the gods were intertwined together and carried with an individual. 

As time progressed, so did the use of lei, all the while continuing to represent the connection to our heritage.

It wasn’t until 1927 when the idea to create a holiday around the beloved lei came about from a poet.

A gentleman named Don Blanding along with a colleague at the Honolulu Star Bulletin came up with “May Day.”

Being first celebrated on May 1st, 1928, “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaiʻi” was proclaimed a day of celebration a year later. 

Something else good to take note of. 

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Because lei is a Hawaiian word, when speaking of multiple lei, it’s still just lei, not leis.

Did you know?  Now you do!