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Civil Rights News | June 20, 2024

Base Honolulu Lei Making Workshop Honors Cultural Traditions

By ET1 Sage-Lee Madeiros-Garcia and YN2 Kyla Tercino

Across the spectrum of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) cultures, traditions vary widely, each offering unique celebrations, customs, and practices. For example, May 1st holds significance worldwide as a day marked by festivals heralding the onset of Spring.  

In Hawai’i, this date is observed as Lei Day, an annual commemorative occasion dating back to 1928, dedicated to the venerable tradition of crafting and presenting lei, ornamental garlands adorned with flowers and various materials. The art of fashioning and receiving lei is deeply embedded in Hawai’ian heritage, marking a variety of life's milestones and rites of passage from youth to adulthood. Lei are also presented as tokens of honor to others, tenderly draped over an individual's head and shoulders. This act is rooted in the belief that the creator imparts a portion of their spirit into each lei, thereby endowing the recipient with the same essence, imbuing the gift with profound significance.  

To honor Lei Day, we drew from our Native Hawai’ian roots to orchestrate a lei-making workshop for members of Base Honolulu. This inaugural endeavor had an excellent turnout, as attendees enthusiastically delved into this unique Hawai’ian tradition. After being guided through crafting one of the simpler, yet popular lei varieties utilizing Ti leaves, symbolic of protection and fortune, participants were afforded the choice of retaining their creations or adhering to customary practice by bestowing them upon others. 

For us, this initiative represented an opportunity to contribute to the Coast Guard community by imparting facets of our personal heritage, sharing our aloha, and introducing a distinctive and culturally resonant means of expressing honor to our shipmates.