May 1st is Lei Day in Hawaii so I decided to include the following article from the Spring 1996 issue of NEWS THAT COUNTS:
Fragrant, lovely and colorful, the lei symbolizes Hawaii as much as the pineapple, coconut palm or the hula. The custom of making and wearing leis began so long ago there is no record of its origin. The Polynesians probably brought with them the tradition of fashioning garlands made of flowers, feathers, leaves, shells, seeds and other materials to adorn themselves. In Hawaii, leis are used to celebrate births, marriages, welcomes, feasts, graduations and other occasions. They are placed on objects of reverence, tell the stories of lovers and give thoughts of love, affection and wishes for good health and success. In 1928, Don Blanding the "poet-laureate of Waikiki" observed that as an American Territory, Hawaii celebrated mainland holidays as well as those of immigrant nationalities in the Islands. But, he noted, there was not one day that was Hawaii's own - that is, none that included all the cultures. Why not have a Lei Day and let it be a day of general rejoicing over that fact that one lives in Paradise? The idea was proposed and the response was overwhelming. Of course! This was a way to truly celebrate the splendor of living or just being in the Hawaiian Islands. Then, as now, the lei is the Spirit of Aloha, the essence of Island beauty. Lei Day is celebrated all over the Islands. Statewide lei-making competitions and exhibits add to the color and excitement of this happy occasion. But the pleasure of adorning yourself with flowers shouldn't be limited to May 1st. Treat yourself to a tradition as old as the islands and wear a lei - everyday!
From Guide to Hawaii, 1991.