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Kukui Nut Lei

a woman smiling for the camera

In our previous article, we were talking about the Meaning of Flower Lei in Hawaii. Just as flower leis, the Kukui Nut lei is a symbol of Hawaii. Unlike fresh flower lei, the kukui nut lei will last forever. Leis are very popular among tourists; they bring it home as a reminder of the beautiful Hawaii vacation. However, it is important to remember that Kukui Nut lei is more than just a Hawaiian souvenir

Flower & Kukui Nut Leis

The Meaning of The Kukui Nut Lei

This type of lei is a symbol of enlightenment, protection, guidance and peace. Ancient Hawaiians used the oil and candlenuts from this tree to produce light by making candles that could burn for hours. They also used the tree’s bark to make dye for their sacred cloths. As a result, kukui came to represent renewal, hope, and light for the Hawaiian people.

The History of the Kukui Nut Tree

Polynesians brought the Kukui Nut tree to Hawaii approximately as early as 300 AD. The tree served as the material for medicine and healing, dye, and canoe-building. Moreover, Ancient Hawaiians used the nuts of the tree for spiritual, and navigational purposes and the most common usage as we’ve already mentioned was for light. When strung in a row on a palm-leaf midrib and lit, the nuts looked very much like a candle. In fact, this is how the tree got its Hawaiian name, which means “light” or “lamp.”

Kukui Nut lei
In 1959, this beautiful tree has rightly become the state tree of Hawaii.

The Kukui Nut Lei Today 

Tourists and tour guides often wear Kukui Nut leis. Since it is a popular Hawaii souvenir and you can easily get it in any gift shop in Hawaii. A long time ago, only royalty was wearing Kukui leis, but today, people in Hawaii give it to each other as a gift or greeting and to show appreciation and friendliness.

Today Hollywood’s royalty has brought back the popularity of the kukui lei by wearing them as part of their jewelry collections. Many famous stars have been seen at fancy restaurants and in nightclubs wearing Kukui Nut leis.

Likewise, today, when couples get married in Hawaii, they wear Kukui Nut leis or bracelets as a symbol of their love and spiritual union. Many traditional Hawaii weddings begin with the ceremony of flower/Kukui Nut leis’ exchange.