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Hawaii- The Culture Behind the Plastic Lei

Caroline Wood

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When people hear Hawaii, many automatically think of plastic leis and hula skirts, but what about the actual culture from which they originated from?

As De La Salle prepares for the highly anticipated Homecoming Dance, students are eager to hula the night away and take part in all of the festivities the Hawaiian way of life has to offer. Here, you can find everything you need to know about the beautiful culture behind the popular party theme.

Originating from Polynesia, Hawaiian traditions are based heavily around hospitality and the islands’ native folklore. The lei, perhaps the most famous of the Hawaiian traditions, is a handmade flower necklace varying in design and color. More rare and exotic flowers are used for more momentous occasions. Leis are given to welcome non-natives to the country and are conventionally presented with a kiss. Removing your lei in front of the presenter is seen as impolite, and is only to be taken off when in a private place.

Another well-known custom is a dance called the hula. Hollywood often depicts the hula as a coy dance with grass skirts; however, traditional Hawaiian hula is nothing like what is commonly seen. Dancers wear customary ti-leaf skirts and colorful fabrics while chanting ancient Hawaiian tales of fierce battles and great gods and goddesses of nature. Hula is seen as a life-long practice, even today.

These traditions, though, would be nothing without the legends behind them. The most important tale of the native Hawaiian people is the legend of the demi-god Maui. It is said that Maui pulled the islands up from the sea himself, using his godly strength. Other ancient legends include the tale of Maui’s sister, Pele, a volcano goddess who erupts due to jealousy of her brother, and Poliahu, a goddess of snow.

Hawaiian festivals to celebrate these legends are frequently held every year. Kauai, a celebration of lights, and Oahu, a celebration of books and music, are among the biggest festivals held in Hawaii. During festivals, local people throw parades and luaus. Luaus are grand feasts and parties and are held during special events as well. Traditional luau foods include salmon, kalua pork, bananas, and sweet potato, all seen as delicacies in ancient times. Hundreds and even thousands of people attend one luau, and all that arrive are considered loved “ohana,” a native word meaning “family.”

All in all, the Hawaiian way of life revolves around a love for everyone you meet and for all of the beautiful things the islands have to provide. Hawaii’s culture is full of beauty, love, and celebration which De La Salle can’t wait to incorporate in the Homecoming Dance on October 15, making it a memorable night for all ohana who will attend.

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Hawaii- The Culture Behind the Plastic Lei