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How Ancient Hawaiians Paid Respect To the Deceased

Hawaiian culture is rich with traditions that span from birth until death. Let’s discuss some aspects of how ancient Hawaiians paid respect to the deceased through traditions and celebrations.

Preparing the Body

Hawaiian families traditionally spend more time with their late loved one’s bodies. This period of two to three days in the home or on the property allows family members of all ages to fully realize their loved one’s passing and directly express their grief with the body.

Upon a loved one’s passing, the deceased’s loved ones wash the body in saltwater. The body is then wrapped with barkcloth and other materials before family members lay the body out for viewing. The tying of the barkcloth is a profound honor reserved for the person closest to the deceased.

Giving of Funeral Leis

Attendants of the deceased’s funeral or memorial often wear leis to show love, respect, and understanding. These flower adornments have deep traditional roots and play an important role in the funeral process. Once the funeral has ended, attendees often remove their leis and take them to where their late loved one spent their time. Others place leis into the ocean or scatter loose flowers to honor their loved one.

Funeral leis are also often given to family members of the deceased to show support in a difficult time.

ʻAha ʻAina Waimaka

One year after their loved one has passed, ancient Hawaiians paid respect to the deceased with a feast for mourners. This anniversary feast was called ʻAha ʻAina Waimaka, or the feast of tears. Everyone attending the feast gathered to share in the burden of mourning and came together to celebrate the life of the deceased and the ability of the living to move forward.

If you have recently lost a loved one and wish to celebrate their Hawaiian heritage, Hawaii Lei Stand is honored to help. We carry a wide array of Hawaiian funeral lei options to best suit both your attendees and your late loved one. Our team specializes in getting fresh lei to the mainland without loss of fragrance or aesthetic so that you may capture the beauty of this tradition in its entirety. If you have any questions about the leis we offer or how we can help, feel free to contact us at any time.