Updated: Aug 16
"The air echoed with the word "Aloha," and every face wore a smile." -Don Blanding
When Don Balding proposed a new holiday to celebrate and revive the tradition of Hawaiian lei-making, he had no idea the lasting impact he would have on local culture. Ninety-two Lei Days later, the aloha spirit and appreciation for this beautiful craft is still running strong.
Robert Cazimero once said, "The thought of this one man-he wasn't even Hawaiian-is a credit to people who love Hawaiʻi and love the culture and love the feeling of it." If you have ever experienced Lei Day as a student, parent, community member, or visitor you will know the feeling that Cazimero is referring to. In his book Hula Moons, the father of Lei Day describes this distinct spirit in beautiful detail.
"Hawaii, herself, the gracious spirit of the islands, embraced and joined all of her numerous children with their many bloods into a splendid spirit of one-ness, and the bond was friendliness interpreted through flowers."
"It was estimated that a hundred thousand people wore the badge of friendliness that day. Princesses and policemen, bankers and bawds, bootleggers and bond salesmen, debutantes and dock hands, Kamaainas and malihinis mingled democratically. Every school child in the Islands...I don't know how many thousands...was pledged to wear a lei, and make a lei to give away."
Balding paints a breathtaking image of what the very first Lei Day was like. The whole Island community dedicated to the beauty of the day and contributing in their own way. And while the extravagance and numbers seems to have toned down throughout the years, the spirit lives in those who do participate today.