The Gift of Making Haku Lei for Carnival

By Catherine Cox P ’18, ’24, Carnival Haku Lei Booth Co-Chair

This past October, participants gathered in the Kosasa Community Oculus for this year’s first Punahou Carnival Haku Lei Booth workshop. The workshops are a unique opportunity to work with master lei makers. A myriad of plant and flower varieties were gathered and donated, rounded out by purchased flowers. Our fabulous team of student chairs prepped materials and greeted all those participating.

As our collective team of chairs, students, shadows and division heads bounced around from task to task, the joy and glow in the space were palpable. There was a vast range of experience among those attending, but the most evident quality was deep gratitude. Materials were treated with care and returned if not used. Honoring and respecting the privilege of the day, participants showered our instructors with thanks.

The next day, I received a beautiful letter from someone whose family was suffering the loss of a beloved member. With her permission, I wanted to share what she wrote: “You said in an earlier email that making lei is about love, and the workshop so deeply embodied that feeling. I left feeling so much joy and love – love for you all for providing the space, guidance and experience. And also for the care that went into preparing all of the flowers and greens and gathering such wonderful teachers. Being there felt like being home. The three hours flew by and reminded me of how focusing on something and bringing that feeling of love and care to the flowers is a way of tending to our hearts and spirits, too. Thank you so much, I was transformed by my time there.”

I attended my first Punahou lei workshop 13 years ago and quickly realized that lei is far more than something to wear in celebration. Lei making is in the care of gathering materials and the heart that is poured into and through it; it is the sharing of a part of oneself and gifting that love to another. I am honored to join my fellow chairs, Cathee, Jen, Joachim and Maile, to share that with our Punahou community.

Our second lei workshop will be held Jan. 7, 2023, in the Kosasa Community Oculus. Please look for an email announcing the signup to participate in the workshop. Plant and flower donations are greatly appreciated for these sessions. Please contact our Haku Lei Team at if you have materials to share!

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