October 13, 2006

Lei

People think it is uniquely Hawaiian to wear flower necklaces and garlands, but it was common in Victorian England for a woman to wear a floral garland around her shoulders for an evening out, and was also common in many peasant cultures for people to weave their own decorative floral garlands to wear for special occasions.

I think it would be nice to revive the custom, only I see it more for an evening in, nowadays. Instead of buying or sending a bunch of flowers for a vase, why not have a fragrant lei or garland for wearing around the house, to enjoy while eating dinner or reading or just whatever? (I am not unserious). Something children would like to have, also, I think.

I've read the ancient Greeks advised wearing garlands made of violets to ease headaches and treat hangovers, and I recall that many old Catholic churches decorate the statues with flower crowns, especially in the warmer months.

There are a number of vendors that make and sell fragrant lei and haku (flower crown worn on the head) and ones for the wrists and ankles. I especially like the idea of white and red ginger flower lei and tuberose with orchid. Perhaps even edible herbal ones of lavender and bay leaves could be useful to hang in your kitchen while you are not wearing it. Of course, for Christmas and other seasonal occasions people buy or make green garlands for the house which emanate a wonderful fragrance for a few weeks. It's yet another way to bring nature and fragrance into our personal space and ornament our gestures while directly experiencing fragrance from the materials that create it.

Above, detail of a red ginger flower lei.

See how to make your own lei and haku.

Here to browse the offerings available in fragrant lei or haku from a good Hawaiian florist, which also gives some general background information as well as the Hawaiian etiquette of wearing lei.

Copyright 2006, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved

2 comments:

Anya said...

Oh, that site -- I haven't visited there in years! I'll take one of each, please.

Lucy said...

Anya, you get to live in your tropical paradise, I am here in Brooklyn, I NEED this stuff...