Category Archives: Festivals

Lei Day in Hawaii – What is it about?

Lei Day – picture source hawaii home

Did you know today, May 1st, is celebrated as Lei Day in Hawaii? No one in this household did!

I read about it being Lei day today on the internet, and got my boys to search about what it meant. And within minutes, they came back with some facts.

So just in case, you are like me, and want to know more about it, here are a few facts.

History of Lei

Leis are one of the most recognizable symbols of Hawaii.

The lei custom was introduced to the islands by the early Polynesian travelers. Wearing these was way of distinguishing oneself from the others. They made these lei not just with Orchids, Plumeria and other blooms but also with the available shells, bones, seeds, leaves and feathers. Use of nuts in the lei was restricted to the royalty.

Today, lei embodies the spirit of aloha — a welcoming embrace that comes with a colorful garland of fresh flowers. Lei are also worn important occasions like births, deaths, victories, religious ceremonies and graduations.

The Origin of ‘Lei Day’

Lei captures the spirit of the Hawaii islands: its colors, flowers, fragrance and aloha.

Probably that was in his mind when in 1928 writer and poet Don Blading wrote an article about marking a day that centered around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei.

Another writer Grace Tower Warren came up with the idea of celebrating it on May Day, May 1. She also coined the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.” Thus, the first Lei day was celebrated on May 1, 1928, and people in Honolulu were encouraged to wear lei. In 1929, Lei Day became an official holiday, and the tradition continues, interrupted only during World War II.

Celebration of Lei Day

Many festivities are held across the island to mark this special day. Festivities include Hawaiin music, Hula as well as lei-making demonstrations. These festivals are free to public, local as well as visitors and the transcend generations. Continue reading

Holi: Festival of Colors

With its rich traditional and cultural heritage, Indians are bound to be celebrating some festival every month or so. One such festival is Holi, a fun, colorful and inclusive festival.

If someone was to ask me, to name my favorite festival, it would be Holi without any doubt. I have lovely childhood memories of playing Holi and my parents and grandparents telling me about the various Holi stories and traditions. And now as a parent myself, I love passing on these stories and traditions to my boys.

Mythological Significance

  • Legend of Prahlad

Legend of Holika, Prahlad and Hrinakashyap

Pic courtesy: Google Images

There are myriad legends associated with Holi, the most popular one is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap.

Legend has it that Hiranyakashyap was a powerful Asura (demon) king and had gained a boon of immortality. He wanted to be worshipped by all. But his own son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashyap. He tried to kill his own son by many cruel means but was unsuccessful. Finally, he sought the help of his evil sister ‘Holika’. Holika had a cloak which made her immune to injury from fire. She tricked Prahlad into entering a bonfire with her. As the fire roared, the cloak slipped from Holika’s shoulder to Prahlad’s. Holika got burnt to death, while Prahlad came out of it unscathed. Thus, started the ritual of Holika Dahan, Holika bonfire, signifying victory of good over evil.

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Makar Sankranti – The Harvest Festival

People of Indian origin celebrated Makar Sankranti today, 15th January 2019. Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the harvest season in India.  

It is one of the few Indian festivals that follows the solar cycles, most of the festivals follow the lunar cycles of the Hindu calendar. Hence the date of this festival is the same every year, most often 14th January, barring a few when its on 15th January.

In Sanskrit language ‘Sankranti’ means the Sun’s movement from one constellation of the zodiac to the next one. As per Indian astronomy on Makar Sankranti, the Sun moves from Dhanu (Sagittarius) zodiac sign to Makar (Capricorn). Thus, begins Sun’s journey to the north, marking the end of Winter and start of Spring, also warmer days.

Childhood memories of the Makar Sankranti day are still vivid in my mind. On a cold morning on 14th/ 15th January, we were asked to take a shower and dress up and head to the kitchen. There in a ‘Thali’/ plate mom would have laid out small heaps of Rice, Black Lentils, one or two potatoes and spoonful to turmeric and salt. These were all the ingredients one needed to make ‘Khichdi’. We were asked to touch our respective thalis and say a small prayer. This would then be donated to the local temple priest or the poor.

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