Last Updated on June 1, 2023 by Kimberlee Johnson
Graduation is marked by donning caps and gowns and exchanging hugs and handshakes.
But one tradition stands out above the rest – the wearing of leis. What is the significance of these fragrant garlands? Why do people wear leis at graduation?
As someone who has attended numerous graduation ceremonies and spoken to some students and educators, I can tell you that the tradition of wearing leis at graduation has a rich cultural history and significance.
So today, let’s delve into the symbolism and meaning behind the leis typically worn for graduation.
Why Are Leis Worn At Graduations?
Leis are worn at graduations as a symbol of pride, accomplishment, love, and support for the graduates from their friends and family.
“Wearing a lei at graduation is a symbolic reminder that just as each flower in the lei contributes to its beauty and significance, so too have the people in our lives contributed to our academic achievements and personal growth.”– Howkapow Gift Site
Also, by giving leis, family and friends can actively participate in the ceremony, strengthening their bond with the graduate. But why do people wear white every graduation day?
What Is A Lei?
A lei is a traditional Hawaiian decoration representing affection, joy, and hospitality. It is made by weaving various natural materials like flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, and nuts .
The most common lies are the fragrant and vibrant floral ones featuring plumeria, orchids, or pikake blossoms.
Leis are usually worn around the neck or head and exchanged during special events such as weddings, graduations, and birthdays or to welcome island visitors.
And it symbolizes the Aloha spirit and Hawaiian culture, symbolizing love, celebration, and honor.
Do Only Hawaiians Wear Leis?
No, not only Hawaiians wear leis. Despite being most commonly associated with Hawaiian culture, leis are popular gifts in the Philippines, Polynesian and Melanesian cultures.
They are a universal emblem of celebration and goodwill because they are frequently used in various cultures.
Do You Wear Leis Before Or After Graduation?
Regarding leis, these are most commonly seen as something to wear after graduation.
They are typically given to graduates as a sign of honor and to acknowledge the successful completion of their studies.
“Graduation is a time of completion, of finishing, of an ending. However, it is also a time of celebration of achievement and a beginning for you.”– Catherine Pulsifer, Author
With various colors, materials, and styles, leis are a traditional symbol of celebration and may even be thought to bring good luck. But what do you wear to a high school party?
How To Make A Lei?
1. Gather Materials
You will need fresh flowers (such as orchids, plumerias, or carnations), a long, sturdy thread or string (about 2-3 times the desired length of your lei), a lei needle or a large sewing needle, and a pair of scissors.
2. Prepare The Flowers
Carefully remove the stems, leaves, and damaged petals from the flowers. Lay them out on your towel or mat, sorted by type and color, for easy access during the stringing process.
3. Thread The Needle
First, a piece of string should be trimmed to the necessary length, and then the string should be threaded into the eye of the needle.
Then, knot at the string’s end to keep the flowers from falling off.
4. Pierce The Flowers
Carefully pierce the base of each flower’s stem or the blossom’s center with the needle, pushing it through to the other side. Be careful not to crush the flowers by not being too rough with them.
5. String The Flowers
Slide each flower down the string, arranging them close together to create a full and attractive lei. You can alternate different types or colors of flowers to create a unique pattern.
6. Secure The Lei
Take out the needle after you’ve reached the required length, and then tie a knot at the end of the two strings to keep the flowers in place.
What Should You Do With Leis After Graduation?
- Return to nature: In Hawaiian tradition, some people return their leis to nature by placing them in water or at a special location with personal or cultural significance.
- Preserve them: Dry or press your flowers to create a lasting keepsake for your graduation day. You can then frame or use the preserved flowers in a scrapbook or memory box.
- Create art: Use the dried flowers to make beautiful artwork or home decors, such as a shadow box display or a floral wall hanging.
Do you throw leis in the trash?
No, it is not appropriate to throw leis in the trash. The lei is a symbol of respect and should be treated with care.
How long will the graduation lei last?
Graduation leis are typically made of fresh flowers, lasting up to 5-6 days, depending on how they are cared for. Know what to wear for a grad party here.
What’s the most famous lei in Hawaii?
The single-strand orchid  lei is the most famous in Hawaii due to its vibrant colors, delicate fragrance, and affordability, making it a popular choice for locals and tourists.
Do you get Lei when you arrive in Hawaii?
Yes, it is a tradition to give a lei to visitors when they arrive in Hawaii. It’s a classic gesture of hospitality meant to convey to the guest some aloha.
The lei has become a staple at graduation ceremonies for good reason.
It represents love, respect, and celebration, and it’s a way for graduates to feel the support of their friends, family, and loved ones.
After graduation, the lei can be a cherished keepsake to remind you of this special day. You should either hang it up in your room or put it in a specific box.
Ultimately, the lei is a timeless symbol that transcends cultures and generations and remains a powerful way to celebrate graduates’ achievements.
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