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A humble, sacred plant. For centuries, leis made from the shiny fragrant leaves of maile (alyxia oliviformis) have been used to communicate love, respect, blessing, enduring devotion, reverence, friendship, and a desire for peace. Maile is an indigenous vine or shrub found in wet forests throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
To create a lei the stems are stripped of bark, which unleashes maile’s fresh, unmistakable scent, and tied into loose open knots. Maile is usually worn as an open-ended lei draped loosely around the shoulders. Possibly the oldest, and certainly one of the most popular leis, the maile lei is steeped in history and tradition. Known as “The Royal Lei” because it was prized by ali‘i (Hawaiian royalty) and often given to denote honor and respect, maile leis were used by people of all classes for many different occasions.
The maile lei is also a symbol of courtship and love. In ancient times a woman would deposit one on the doorstep of the man she hoped to marry, boldly announcing her intentions to her beloved and the entire village. During wedding ceremonies, the kahuna (priest) would bind the hands of the bride and groom together with a strand of maile to symbolize their commitment and union.Maile was employed as a peace offering in times of battle. When peace was desired, warring chiefs would meet in a heiau (house of worship) to resolve their differences. There they would work together to weave a lei of maile. When the lei was completed, peace was officially established.
Boys often wear one to their prom, and it is a favorite graduation gift. Grooms adorn themselves and their groomsmen in maile leis, and the hand binding ceremony is still popular at weddings.
They are generously given as signs of friendship, and it is customary for the recipient to join the open ends to symbolize the love that weaves the friends together. Untying a maile lei, in the Hawaiian version of a ribbon cutting ceremony, commemorates the opening of new buildings, roads, and businesses.
There are no hard and fast rules about where and when to wear a lei. They are used to mark important life events, but can be worn anytime, just because. Since it is given in the spirit of love and generosity, it is considered rude to refuse a lei. When you are finished with your lei you should return it to the earth, ideally in the spot it was collected. Otherwise it can be hung from a tree or buried. Regardless of who gave it, a lei is also a gift from the ‘aina (land).
Wholesalers and florists here in Hawaii usually sell maile leis now for $30.00 or more. Beautiful to look at and heavenly to smell, the maile lei embodies the spirit of Aloha.
Perhaps the next time you wish to express love, respect, or the desire for peace, you can let the gift of a time-honored maile lei convey more than mere words ever could. So please place your order with us today.
Call us today at (866) 982-8322
Mahalo nui loa,
-Puna Kamali’i Flowers