When most people see Hawaiian leis, they are so focused on the beauty of them they do not take time to understand there is often a meaning associated with them. Getting lost in the beauty is an easy thing to do. Leis are fragrant, often made from bright colors and adorn the necks of almost everyone you see in Hawaii. There is more to the lei than meets the eye.

Often, leis help to mark important events, transitions and milestones in people's lives. There are different floral colors and arrangements for marriage, birth, dying, love, religious significance and community. People visiting Hawaii are given green, purple or white orchid leis to welcome them to the islands. More commercial welcome leis found at airports and gift shops are made with plumeria. A red, orange and brown lei comes from the ilima flower and is often worn to symbolize love. Every leaf and flower has a special meaning that has often been passed down for generations through the oral tradition.

Many people do not know that leis in Hawaii were not always made with bright flowers. In ancient times, they were made with animal teeth, beads, feathers, ivory, leaves and shells. These were considered more permanent leis that could be worn for long periods of time. 

Receiving a lei is considered the same as receiving a gift, so it is rude to refuse them when they are offered. After accepting it, it is also rude to take it off in the presence of the person who gave it to you. There is often not a strong chance of this, though. Not many people can resist the lei's beauty.