Hawaiian Leis - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Hawaiian Leis

How to Make a ​Hawaiian Lei

Hawaii was one of many locations connected to New Bedford through whaling voyages. A Lei is a traditional garland from Hawaii that is used to represent a variety of events and celebrations in someone’s life. Lei giving is also used to welcome and show peace, love, honor, or friendship for another person.

Originally, the lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who navigated by the stars in sailing canoes. With these early settlers, the lei tradition in Hawaii was born. Leis can be constructed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, and feathers. What a lei is made of can determine its significance.


  • Paper, pencil, coloring supplies (crayons, markers, or colored pencils), scissors, string.


  • Create an example of a  lei to celebrate a moment in your life or gift another person

Guiding Questions

  • What objects does your family or culture use for celebrations or to show peace, love or friendship?
  • Do you know other Hawaiian traditions? Research and learn about traditional Hawaiian culture.


  1. Take the piece of paper and with a pencil, outline the shape of flowers.  You will need to make several flowers.
  2. Design the flowers any way you like by using the coloring supplies.
  3. Use the scissors to cut out each flower.
  4. Cut a small slit in the center of each flower.
  5. Cut the string to your preferred necklace length.
  6. Run the string through the center of each flower.
  7. Once all of your rare on the string, tie off the ends of the string together.