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Leis Made in Texas

Leis- Tradition and Origin

Lei made with Crepe Myrtle flowers and carnations by Stephen Chock 2023

A lei is a wreath of fragrant flowers and leaves. Leis originated in Polynesia. In about 400 A.D., Polynesian voyagers studied the stars and ocean patterns to discover the volcanic islands of Hawai’i. After they came to the islands via canoe, they made leis out of the fragrant flowers and ferns that grew on the island and other natural objects, such as shells and feathers, to adorn themselves and to honor their gods. The Hawaiians wore leis to dance hula to honor the deity of hula, Laka, and to pass down their history and traditions through song and dance. 

Hawaiians still make and wear the lei as part of the cultural tradition of hula and as everyday wear, such as on the brim of a hat.  As many peoples immigrated to Hawai’i, the islands became a very culturally diverse place. With the advent of tourism, the lei became an icon of Hawai’i to greet visitors. The lei continues today as a way to communicate welcome, farewell, and love (aloha). It also is given as a congratulatory gesture at special occasions such as graduations, weddings, retirements, and other life milestones.

My father makes a lei using flowers found in Texas. He first uses heat to make the leaves for the base more flexible. The technique he uses to bind the flowers to the ferns using raffia is called, "Wili." He recommends going to Sam's Club for the best selection of flowers with sturdy but flexible stems and ferns. 

Lei made with Crepe Myrtle flowers, Indian Blanket wild flowers, Black Eyed Susan flowers and ferns from Sam's Club

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