The perks of a good lei

UAA graduation time is painted with green and gold spirit and the purple Hawaiian orchid lei. With a sizable population of Pacific Islanders in Alaska, the lei tradition has tapped into mainstream tradition. People of varied backgrounds give the lei as a gift for any
occasion, most notably during graduations.

However, there are few “rules” of etiquette when it comes to the lei.

The plural form of lei is simply lei in the Hawaiian language. The traditional way to wear a closed lei is gently draped around the shoulders with half of it hanging in the front and half of it hanging in the back. When presenting a lei to someone, it is tradition to give them a kiss on both sides of the face. Denying a lei or giving it away in front of the person who gave it to you can be considered rude.
“Leis are like luaus, they bring people together. A lei is a gift from the soul,”

Kaneyo Hirata, board member of the Polynesian Association of Alaska and a major in Cross-Cultural Studies, said. “I think that’s what draws other people who are not Polynesian to the lei language. It is a language of love.”

Here are some basic lei crafting instructions for beginners. *Photos by Nita Mauigoa


















• Plastic wrap or cellophane (green or gold)
• 1 bag green wrapped Lindt chocolates
• 1 bag gold wrapped Lindt chocolates
• White gift ribbon, cut into 6-inch strips

1. Roll out about 2.5 feet of plastic wrap or cellophane on a flat surface and cut in half.
2. Line roughly 15 candies at the edge of plastic wrap or cellophane
3. Slowly roll candies up in wrap or cellophane like a burrito
4. Cut strips of ribbon, 6-inches each
5. Tie ribbons in between candies and close up lei
(people get creative and substitute candy with anything)



• 1 bouquet of carnations or 2 stems of orchids
• 12 crisp dollar bills of any denomination
• Dental floss
• 1 needle
• Green or gold ribbons, cut into 6-inch strips
• Mini rubber bands

1. Fold bills accordion-style with folds running vertically
2. Tie 1 ribbon and 1 rubber band in the middle of each bill, forming a fan
3. De-stem flowers
4. Tie floss on needle and thread through middle of de-stemmed flowers
5. Use ribbons to tie bills onto the floss, alternating between flowers



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