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Celebrating May Day in Kailua, Hawaii

This year I experienced my first May Day celebration in Hawai’i. On the mainland, May Day is a non-holiday, less notable than even Groundhog Day, depending on your climate. The only May Day display I had ever experienced was when the businesses in the colonial Historic District of Annapolis decorated their front doors with fresh flower baskets to mark the beginning of spring and the hope for good weather to come. Lovely, but certainly not a big celebration.

What is May Day in Hawaii?

In Hawai’i, however, May Day (May 1st) is also known as Lei Day. The day is often marked by festivals, shows of Hawaiian culture such as hula performances, music, and lei making demonstrations, and the crowning of community kings and queens.

May Day Kings and Queen

May Day Kings and Queen

The royalty are attended by a court of princesses and their escorts dressed in the specific flower or shell lei and colors representing each of the eight major islands in the chain.

Celebrating May Day

The school celebration we attended on a beautiful, sunny day in the shadow of the lush Ko’olau Mountains, began with the traditional blowing of the pu, or conch shell, to announce the opening of the ceremony and the arrival of the ali’i, or royalty. Down the center aisle strolled the procession of the May Day court princesses and their escorts, followed by the king and queen.

Once they settled into their large wicker thrones on the stage, they were honored by songs and dances from each of the grade levels, themed to represent one of the islands. Live ukulele and guitar music was provided by a talented band of faculty members, including the Vice Principal who strummed the bass for a bit.

A group of teachers also performed their own hula to honor the court, an especially meaningful dance. The whole experience will be a treasured memory for our family, and is one more tradition that makes Hawai’i such a special place to live.

Many thanks to Lysandra Cook Photography for the use of her May Day Photo.

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