Whether we’ve been lucky enough to experience an extravagant island trip where we are greeted by flower lays and crowns as we exit the plane or not, most of us are at least familiar with the tradition. The Islands of Tahiti embrace this tradition full on. Island flower crowns are given to visitors of the island as a sign of welcome and are referred to as “HEI UPO’D”. They are worn to celebrate the beauty of everyday life in the Islands. Some crowns are very elaborate and some are simply made from only “ti” leaves. Native flowers are commonly woven into the crowns including hibiscus, frangipani, or plumeria, and of course, the biggest symbol of the Islands of Tahiti, the tiare flower.
Flower crowns and leis go hand in hand in most islands. They have been constructed of various materials such as, flowers, shells, nuts, leaves, feathers, and bone, but a braid of green Maile vine is most popular in Hawaiian culture. The lei was introduced to Hawaii by the ancient Polynesian voyagers who first settled the islands. For centuries a crown or lei made of flowers has been worn to beautify the wearer, exchanged to seal peace agreements, or serve a ceremonial purpose in celebrations. It became tradition to throw your lei or flower crown into the ocean when departing from Hawaii if traveling by ship.