On the eve of May 1, kamaʻāina (residents) across the islands string together flowers or visit their local florist so they can share lei with those around them the next day. May Day, also known as Lei Day, is a lively holiday when gifts of lei serve as gestures of aloha, hospitality is abundant, and the air is rich with fragrant blossoms, fresh greenery, live music and love for community.
Lei has long served as a symbol of our signature hoʻokipa (I am host) hospitality at Hawaiian Airlines and is shared when we greet our guests on special occasions, bless our planes before entering service and celebrate our employees.
This year, we’re inviting our guests to join our May Day celebrations in a few different ways:
Virtually tune in to a live May Day showcase with some of Hawaiʻi’s most beloved musicians and dancers. “Hawaiian Airlines May Day 2021: Mākaʻikaʻi” will debut at 6 p.m. HST on May 1 on Hawaii News Now-KGMB and 7 p.m. HST on Hawaii News Now-KFVE. The performance will be streamed live on HawaiiNewsNow.com and the station’s Facebook channel.
Learn the language of lei with a starter guide to help you get to know the names and meanings of the most common lei in Hawai‘i.
Subscribe to our Spotify playlists, built with May Day in mind. Our team has selected mele (songs) that pay tribute to locations across each island. Click here to start streaming and subscribe.
During this year's May Day festivities, we welcome you to take a trip down memory lane as our employees reminisce on special moments of making, giving or receiving a lei.
Debbie Nākanelua-Richards, director of community and cultural relations: This is a photo of one of the first times I received lei made of ʻākulikuli flower. I was riding in the Aloha Festival Parade that year, and I remember being moved by the fact that someone had painstakingly gathered on the island of Maui and brought for me to wear. The lei is so significant, and I always keep this photo at my desk because it was such a special gift.
Puamana Garcia, flight attendant: May Day always has been a special day for me. This photo was taken in 2014 while celebrating with my Hawaiian Airlines inflight ʻohana. From left: Our Handsome Crewmembers pictured are Kaimana Domingo, Stanley Dickson, Puamana Garcia, Kaleo Izumi.
Tara Shimooka, manager of external communications: My colleague took this photo when we bid aloha to our former president and CEO, Mark Dunkerley, on his last day before he retired. People from across the company stopped by to give lei, and I remember him taking the time to exchange memories with every person. There was a constant stream of people and activity throughout the day, but everyone got a chance to talk story with him. I love giving lei because it offers this unique opportunity to share a moment with someone regardless of what else is going on around you. It’s almost as if everything else stops during this brief connection. Lei Day captures that feeling and honors it, and it truly is something special.
Alisa Onishi, senior director of brand and community: One of my most cherished, favorite memories is when my little brother Ryan and I won the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest. We were both showered with lei from our classmates and families. Winning was such an honor but winning alongside my little brother made it even better.
Jamie Matsuda, pricing implementation analyst: Receiving a lei is always special. We learned at an early age to sew flower lei, especially plumeria and carnations, for our school May Day programs. Our grandpa made the lei needles, so we would always have them on hand. My family would search the neighborhood for plumeria flowers, and my dad would bring home orchid and carnation flowers. We even learned to make double carnation lei, which I hardly see today. Though we are no longer in school, my mom still enjoys sewing lei and calls it her “relax time” and makes her lei even if there is no special occasion.
Irina De La Torre, senior specialist of community relations: When I was in sixth grade at Sunset Beach Elementary, we had to prepare for our school’s May Day celebrations by making our own lei. I distinctly remember each kid had to collect 150 plumeria flowers and bring them back to class the next day. I foraged all over the North Shore to gather my plumeria, but the trees were bare, so it proved to be more challenging than I thought. Our teachers thought we would be building character by having our parents drive us around as we actively searched and climbed trees to pick our flowers. I was so proud of myself, but I later learned some kids purchased loose plumeria from a nearby farm. Here is a picture with me wearing my lei, on the left.
Shannon Kaleikini-Fukuda, customer service chief agent: I remember my mom's sister, Sarah (Ayat) Quick, known as Kumu (Teacher) Quick to her students at Kamehameha Schools, would come to visit our home in Kāneʻohe often. The day my family took this photo, she and my mother were teaching me how to make my first Haku Lei, which my aunt later took with her to the Annual May Day Lei Contest in Kapiʻolani Park where she was one of the judges