Love, Legends, and a Lei

Jun 18, 2013 | Featured Posts by Holly Jahangiri, Gratitude, Reviews


It’s a wonderful tradition in the islands of Hawaii to greet visitors with a heartfelt “Aloha,” which, in Hawaiian, means “affection, peace, compassion and mercy,” while adorning them with a bright, colorful lei – a garland of fresh, fragrant flowers native to the islands. This, then, was my first impression of Hawaii, when I was nine years old.

Naturally, I wanted to capture and hold onto this feeling of aloha – so I came back to the mainland with a sparse grass skirt, a floral bikini top, and a plastic flower lei. I added a strand or two of puka shells. Still, I wanted more authenticity. Dancing barefoot in our back yard, I saw some long strands of grass near the lilac trees. One thought led to another, and I was soon gathering flowers and leaves to make a more authentic island lei. Ohio is not known for orchids, white ginger, plumeria, pikake, and kukui nuts. But I found the most marvelous shiny green leaves, supple and slightly tinted red, as if they were blushing in the sun. They came in in clusters of my favorite number: three.

It was a learning experience. I don’t recommend amateur, do-it-yourself leis. You are much better off flying to Hawaii – or ordering fresh flower leis shipped to you from Aloha Island Lei. This is the next best thing to being there. Leis are used, in the islands, to mark all major life events – from simple greetings of love and welcome, to births and weddings, graduations, official ceremonies, and even death. This is just one – no, scratch that, TWO! – of the beautiful leis made by the folks at Aloha Island Leis – the box arrived on my doorstep this morning:




According to legend, if you toss your lei into the ocean upon departing, and it floats back to shore, you will some day return to the islands. I wish someone had told me that bit of lore! I have visited the islands three times – almost went to college there, but chose at the last minute not to go. Had I gone, in my Junior year, I would not have met my husband. Return can wait a bit. Leis are symbols of love, and they tell many tales. I remember being captivated by Hawaiian legends, particularly those surrounding the goddess, Pele. You can read some of the stories about Pele here.

It is considered disrespectful to toss your lei into the trash; instead, it should be given back to the earth. We got a lime tree this past weekend; I think that when the time comes, I will share my lei with it by hanging it in the tree’s branches, or wrapping it loosely around the trunk.

A Lei

So how did all this come about, anyway? I got an email, last week; the subject line was, “Can I send you a Hawaiian Lei?”

As a blogger, I’m a little wary of unsolicited offers from numbered GMail accounts. I was tempted to write back, “Do I look like I need to get leid?” I told my husband some stranger on the Internet wanted to, well…

“–send you flowers from Hawaii?” he said, laughing.

I glared at him.

After checking out the company and contacting them directly, to be sure that the offer was legit, I accepted it and sent them my mailing address. Fresh flowers all the way from Hawaii… and just a “short review” in return. (“Short review”? They don’t know me very well, that’s obvious. Or maybe not so obvious… wait till you see what they sent!)


Really, after a week like last week, I have to admit that I needed a good lei. Yes, that’s my car – or what’s left of it. I needed a little extra pampering, this week. But if I close my eyes and surround myself with fresh, exotic island flowers, I can go to my mental happy place and let Pele swallow up careless drivers… no, I mean, I can lose myself in the sweet scent of nature…


I was not expecting to receive two leis. The smaller, white strand is Tuberose, and it filled the house with its sweet scent the minute I opened the box. The larger one is purple orchids – it looks like the lovely “BOM Triple” – I think I’m going to have to make Aloha Island Lei an honorary member of Team Purple Feather Boa! Seriously, I may have to indulge in flowers for myself more often.

And no, I’m not going to sing, dance, or eat my orchids, Christopher Ford… but in tribute to other forms of storytelling, I leave you with this – the love story of Hi’ilawe – something I think you’ll enjoy more than any feeble attempts by me to sing or dance:



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Cairn Rodrigues

    I still remember the scent of my lei when we took our first, so far only, Hawaiian vacation. I also remember just walking down the streets of Honolulu and seeing the leis on all the statues. Such a beautiful and simple way of honoring the past and keeping memories alive.
    Cairn Rodrigues recently posted…#BlogCrawl – The SequelMy Profile

    • Vivian Zabel

      Ouch. I’m sure you are quite fortunate not to be injured more severely. Enjoy the lei and dream.

      • Holly Jahangiri

        Yes – I am lucky! Every time I look at that photo, I realize that dark line down the door is a slash through metal. That, and the flying glass, and that very final *thump* when everything stopped moving – that’s what stands out most vividly. We all walked away from this, though – meaning we were ALL lucky.

  2. Linda Branam

    Holly, I was fortunate enough to live in Hawaii twice, courtesy of the Armed Forces: from the middle of 8th grade to the middle of my junior year when my dad was in the Air Force, and then seven years later with my former husband, who was a Marine. Our second son was born at Tripler Army Hospital in Aiea. My parents had a white carnation lei flown in for my high school graduation. It was lovely! Your tuberose lei reminds me that I loved tuberoses–until I wore one for Aloha Day one year in high school. By noon I had such a headache! I’ve since discovered that gardenias do that to me too. 🙁

    Thanks for prompting my wonderful memories of Hawaii!

  3. Dave Michaud

    You look mahvelous framed in those flowers. That was a nice story Holly, a concatenated snippet of pain, frustration, gently leveraged memories and joy in a three minute read. My wife and I visited Hawaii twice early in our marriage and several times per year during 37 years of marriage something will happen and we’ll look at each other and say–“Do you remember the cinnamon smell of the paths on Kauai during the rain ?” or something similar.

    When you mentioned the “three leaf” plants for a lei when you were a kid I was anticipating a different yet Holly-like ending. I always leave one of your stories with a lesson learned or seed of inspiration and Jane will likely get lei’d for no reason in the near future.

    Thanks as always for the fearless rumble of your enthusiam Holly:)


    • HollyJahangiri

      Oh, thank you, Dave! I would love to share Hawaii with my husband and kids. It’s a gorgeous place, almost magical.

      As for that “different ending” – I thought the three leafed lei (of blistering agony) spoke for itself (by implication) – I was trying not to dwell on anything but the positive in this, but felt it was a good argument for buying the professionally made lei, no matter how sweetly touching homemade gifts may normally be. I’ll leave “Adventures in Poison Ivy” for another post. 🙂 There were…several. Including one in which I gained a rather unique perspective on faith healing.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Love, Legends, and a LeiMy Profile

      • Dave Michaud

        Reading the stories on your blog(s) or in one of your books Holly is like watching “The Price is Right”. I’m always trying to guess which door you’ll open after starting out in costume, I’ve learned to refrain from using the scroll bar or flipping to the end of a chapter in the same way I’ve settled down to finally enjoy each course of a meal without skipping to desert.

        Hawaii is a cool place and I’ve been addicted to Kona coffee and dash-board hula dolls ever since visiting. I didn’t know that a person could order a Lei, not like the one you pictured anyway.

        I Love your stories 🙂


        • HollyJahangiri

          Thank you, Dave!

          Now that I’ve shown the value of not skipping ahead or skimming, let’s see if I can ever revive the dead art of hyperlinks.

          I miss Hawaii; J.J. has never been. I have different ideas for our 30th, next year, but hope to get him there one of these days.
          HollyJahangiri recently posted…#blogcrawl Prompt: Lucky UnderwearMy Profile

      • Dave Michaud

        J.J. sounds a lot like Clark Kent; all mild mannered and adoring while being an actual guy capable of putting up with “Holly”. Your fans expect to see both of you at a Luau next year in grass skirts sipping Kona coffee and doing a State Farm insurance commercial–Flo and Dennis Haybert have nothing on you two 🙂

  4. Ron

    Hi Holly,
    My wife and I were in Kauai, Hawaii last April.
    We visited our friends and had amazing time admiring the splendour of the island.

    We also attended a wedding which was organized and held in a very local ceremony, and it was fantastic.

    There were coconuts that were broken in 2 pieces and then joined again, then its water was sprinkled to the couple’s hands and to the land symbolizing unity from that moment to the future.

    Then there were many beautiful garland of flowers, called lei.
    My wife even had a photo that says ‘We got leid in Hawaii 🙂 !!.

    The local language is beautiful and what is more amazing is that they only have 13 letters in the alphabet (5 vowels and 8 consonants).

    Aside from ‘Aloha’ , the other words we always hear were ‘Mahalo (Thank You), Ohana (Family) and Pua (Flower).

    Thanks Holly for writing this and for reminding me again how beautiful Hawaii is especially if you are with the one you love.

    You are so right. There’s so much love, legends and lei in Hawaii.

    Ron recently posted…A Dad for LifeMy Profile

    • Dave Michaud

      Beautiful description of Hawaii Ron.

      Mahalo buddy l^^l 🙂


  5. Pete Laberge

    Well if anyone deserves a lei… it is you! Enjoy!

  6. Aleta

    Woah! Love those flowers. We stayed in Hawaii for 2 weeks – first week was on the Northshore of Oahu at a beach house – beautiful and away from the tourists. Second week was a cruise around the islands. Love Hawaii and I’d go back in a heartbeat, but I don’t see that happening. Was a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing about the flowers – you brought back happy memories.

    But oh no about your car!!! Yikes!
    Aleta recently posted…Guess WhatMy Profile

  7. Marcos Pereira

    Wow! Until today I remember the Hawaiian vacation I did with my family … it was unforgettable! Thanks for sharing.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Copyright © 1998-2020 Holly Jahangiri
Nothing on this website may be used without prior written consent of the author and owner.

Let’s Connect!

Do you like "unlimited" like I do? Subscribe to Medium for just $5/month, and read everything there is to read, for no extra charge. Use this link: and it will directly support my writing there each month.

Looking for Excellent Web Hosting?

PeoplesHost Web Hosting


I have been a happy customer here, myself. While this is an affiliate link, I'm just happy to promote PeoplesHost, because I have had nothing but great customer experience with them as my own web hosting provider.

Post Categories