New to the cultural practice of lei giving? Fear not — there's really nothing to it. But, of course, it doesn't hurt to know beforehand if you are going about things the right way. Luckily, it's all pretty simple and has much more to do with intentions and aloha than anything else.
First things first, lei etiquette. The act of giving a loved on a lei dates back years and years in Hawaiian culture. Traditionally, refusing to wear a lei when it is offered as a gift is a show of disrespect. Also refrain from wearing the lei you intend to give someone — drape it around your arm or keep it in the container. And one more thing: In Hawaiian culture it's taboo to give a pregnant woman a closed lei, as it symbolizes the baby's umbilical cord wrapping around its neck. Instead, open lei are gifted to keep baby safe.
Properly wearing your lei is easy-peasy. It should rest comfortably around your neck and against your chest. Instead of resting it on the neck like a necklace, lei can be draped with some space on either side. Open-ended lei, on the other hand — like double ti leaf or maile — does sit on the back of the neck with either sides evenly hanging down the front. Haku lei are left untied so that the wearer can adjust it accordingly. Make sure it rests across the forehead, right above the eyebrows, before tying it securely — it should be comfortably snug.
When you're done wearing your lei, lift it up and over your head before placing it back into the fridge — if it's still wearable — or laying it out to dry. Traditionally, lei are not thrown away and returned to the land instead. However, if you choose to practice this, we recommend untying your lei and discarding the string before placing the flowers in the outdoors. Now that you know all about how to properly wear a fresh Hawai’ian lei, you can gift your loved ones beautiful lei for any occasion.