Da Lei of da Land

Liddo Bitta Tita


Story by Kathy Collins

Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:

Tita Kathy Collins

Small-kid time, when I was grade school, I used to t’ink May Day was invented by da Hawaiians. I nevah know about da olden days Europeans, or da guy Don Blanding who went come up wit’ da Lei Day idea in 1928, or Red an’ Ruth Hawk who wen’ write dat song. All I knew was dat May Day was one a my mos’ favorite days. Wasn’t one holiday ‘cause still had school. Was even mo’ betta dan one holiday, ‘cause we was using school time fo’ make party! An’ not jus’ any kine party, you know. Was like United Nations Day, Halloween, Christmas, County Fair, and Summah Olympics all put togeddah.

From kinny-garden to eighth grade, all da classes had to perform in da May Day pageant. Each class would do one song or dance from one different et’nic group. Dass how I wen’ learn da Chinese ribbon dance, Maori chest-slappin’ chants, da Filipino bamboo dance, and haole square dance. Every year somet’ing different. An’ every year, we make our own costumes fo’ match whatevah culture we stay represent. Mos’ times, dat was white T-shirt an’ shorts, an’ construction-pepa hats or crepe-pepa skirts.

But da pageant was only Round One. Round Two was da games. Tug-a-war, t’ree-legged race, watah-balloon toss, all kine relay races, wit’ one big awards ceremony at da end. And da whole time, da special snack shop was open, wit’ shave ice an’ cotton candy. Was da only day of da year you could buy candy bars an’ Yick Lung seeds at school!

Back den, nevah have such ting as Aloha Friday; May Day was da only day we could wear aloha attire to school. So from New Year’s, we would start talkin’ about our May Day mu‘umu‘us: who got one for Christmas, whose maddah going sew one special for dem, whose parents going take ‘em Peggy & Johnny’s or Ikeda’s fo’ buy one new one. Even da boys would get all duked up wit’ brand new aloha shirts and Sunday school pants.

And since May Day is Lei Day, we had to have special kine lei fo’ go wit’ our nice new clothes. I t’ink my favorite was da one I went make in seventh grade—vanda orchid, Maunaloa style, flat wit’ da wings on da sides, fo’ match my new Liberty House long mu‘u.

But even mo’ important than da lei you get on, is da lei you give. Exchanging lei was da main t’ing about May Day. Even in first grade, we would sew plumeria or crown-flowah leis da night befo’. First t’ing in class next morning, we give ‘em to our teachah an’ our friends. Flowah leis, fabric leis, candy leis, crack-seed leis . . . everybody would have at least couple, three leis around their neck and big smiles on top their face. Dat was my mos’ favorite part of May Day, even mo’ betta dan Yick Lung seeds.

Maybe da Hawaiians nevah invent May Day or Lei Day, but to me, May Day is all about aloha. An’ aloha is born an’ raised right here.



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