Navy Hale Keiki School celebrates 69th annual Lei Day

Students at Navy Hale Keiki School march at the start of the 69th annual Lei Day Program, May 13.

Students at Navy Hale Keiki School march at the start of the 69th annual Lei Day Program, May 13.

Story and photos by MC1 Nardel Gervacio

Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

Navy Hale Keiki School celebrated its 69th annual Lei Day program May 13, promoting awareness and appreciation for the Hawaiian culture and its traditions.

Lei Day became an established ceremony in 1928, when Don Blanding, a Hawaiian poet, encouraged the keeping of a day when lei would be worn by all. The celebration is linked with the inner life of Hawaii’s people.

“Our school has been celebrating Lei Day for sixty-nine years,” Sarah Garcia, a fourth grade teacher and Lei Day coordinator said. “Our students are primarily military families living in a variety of places before moving to Hawaii. This is a great experience for them while living in Hawaii for a few years.”

In attendance were Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific and his wife as well as other distinguished visitors.

Students at Navy Hale Keiki School perform for family members and guests including Rear Adm. John Fuller and Mary Fuller.

Students at Navy Hale Keiki School perform for family members and guests including Rear Adm. John Fuller and Mary Fuller.


The Lei Day program began with a special blessing of ocean salt (or pa’akai) and taro plant (or kalo). Salt was used to preserve and flavor foods and holds a special place of honor in the Hawaiian culture. The taro plant represents the connection to the land. Salt and taro reminds the people of Hawaii their responsibility to preserve the natural beauty of the islands.

Following the blessing, the event began with the arrival of the Royal Court, representing the eight Hawaiian Islands along with narrations from each grade level’s history of the island and how it plays a part in Lei Day. Each class then performed a song and dance for all that attended.

“I love these kinds of events because I get to see what the teachers do with the students outside the class,” Saskia Leather said. “Just to see the love that the teachers have for the kids, to put together (an event), which they do it on their own time. It’s really nice to see that they care about our children.”

Garcia said that the teachers try to teach their students the local culture, to celebrate lei day as well as research the islands and learn about their home before leaving the island.

The program came to an end with all children coming together on stage to sing “We Are Family.”

“This was a great success,” Garcia said. “The kids have been working really hard since January of this year working on performances with their class and they were all excited to share all their performances with their families.”

The Legislature of Hawaii established official flowers and colors for each of the eight islands. It is tradition for the island of Hawaii to use these special flowers and colors in their Lei Day pageants, Aloha Week, and Kamehameha Day celebrations.

“I think it’s great. It’s wonderful to have a gathering to help the kids appreciate the different cultures and what better way to throw a party that involves singing and dancing,” Lauren Smith said.

“I think it’s awesome, the kids love it, the adults love it and it seems that everyone just had a great time.”

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Category: News