HONOLULU (KHON2) — May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii, and thousands came out to celebrate the occasion after COVID placed the celebration on pause during the past two years.

Lei Day includes the tradition of making and giving a lei.

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Gatherings had been restricted during the last years of the pandemic, for that reason, Kuuipo Santimer-Padilla of Rachel’s Lei Stand said being in person this year feels extra special.

She said, “it gives me chicken skin, you know to come back and share the culture with all these people around the world you know, and I just love doing this.”

Kumu Hula Sallie Yoza was part of a Lei Day celebration at SALT At Our Kakaako. She said her favorite part of her day was sharing the culture with those new to the islands.

Lei Day festivities done at SALT at Our Kakaako included music, hula, keiki crafts, and lei-making.

“May Day is Lei Day because a lei is what we do and we share a lei of aloha with others,” Yoza said. “And to see everyone here, just to hear the laughter, to see the children smiling after going through so many changes in our life from this pandemic.”

This year’s Lei Queen Natalie Brown Ah Quin said she remembers making lei from a young age. She learned from her mother how to string them together and then her grandmother taught her how to grow the flowers. She is confident this is a tradition that will continue to follow future generations.

Ah Quin said, “I am the 93rd Lei Queen, this is our 94th Lei Day so we are almost coming up to 100 years, so you know, just to perpetuate this tradition, it’s going to continue and that’s exciting in itself.”

She said she was humbled to be named the 94th Lei Queen at Kapiolani Park, and it took her a while to tell her family members about the journey she was embarking on.

“I was just embarrassed at first because I help train girls for Ms. Hawaii pageants for years,” Ah Quin said. “So this for me to be on the other side is kind of funny.”

At Kapiolani Park, the lei court presided over the 94th Annual Lei Day Celebration. The theme of the city’s 2022 Lei Day celebration was Lei Wao Nahele or forest lei.

There was entertainment and a lei contest. The lei contest drew in 106 entries for 14 categories. The Mayor’s Grand Prize winner was William Char who created a lei ʻāʻī or a neck lei of aster, cornflower, hydrangea, palalai, pansy and belladonna. Char won seven awards. Melvin Tracy Labra won eight awards at the contest.

At the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki, the day will be filled with lei-making classes, performances, local vendors, and a day-long launch of The Eddie Kamae Songbook: A Musical Journey.

On the Big Island, the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel hosts Lei Day Brews ‘N Blooms along with Kona Brewing Co. The hotel had lei day activities planned including ukulele performances, craft fairs, lei-making classes, and Kona Brewing Co. samples.

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The City and County of Honolulu said Governor Wallace R. Farrington proclaimed May 1 of each year as May Day is Lei Day in 1929.