2020 Theme Announced: Choco-Lei Day

The ninth Big Island Chocolate Festival is May 1-2, 2020 and celebrates Hawai‘iʻs Lei Day holiday with the apt theme: Choco-Lei Day. Culinarians are encouraged to create booths depicting Lei Day and/or lei garlands made out of the materials of your choice. Culinary booths will be judged on their use of the Choco-Lei Day theme, based on the concept of Hawai‘i’s Lei Day with the incorporation of chocolate.  

Celebrated annually on May 1, May Day is Lei Day in the 50th state. It’s when residents compete in elaborate lei making contests and schools stage May Day programs with a “royal court” presided by a king and queen. And of course, Lei Day is a great time to “lei” on some love with a special garland of island blossoms.

The custom of gifting a lei was made internationally famous decades ago when visitors were greeted with garlands of fresh island flowers upon their arrival to the islands. Today, some lu‘au and hotels welcome guests with a lei, often made of shells or sweet-smelling plumeria blossoms. Drug stores sell lei made from packs of gum, nuts, candy and tiny liquor bottles… while crafters customize garlands sporting school colors using yarn and ribbons. Whatever the rhyme or reason, leis specialize an occasion and say “I care.”

“Many people have difficulty saying ‘I love you.’ In Hawai‘i, we get around the words by giving a lei,” said the lei master, Marie MacDonald. The renown lei specialist, who won the grand prize at O‘ahu’s prestigious Lei Day competition, also authored the definitive pictorial history book on lei art, “Ka Lei.”  

Lei protocol suggests types of leis for certain occasions: a bride wears a white necklace of jasmine blossoms while her groom is draped in a spicy maile leaf lei—symbolically open at both ends. Graduates are often gifted with lei strung with dollar bills in the shapes of blossoms. 

Cost of a lei is determined by the materials used—fresh or silk flowers, leaves, shells, nuts, seeds, feathers, etc.—and the method of preparation. A day-old fresh lei is like day-old bread, it can be purchased at a discount. Either way, get in on the fun and festivity with a lei on Lei Day!

Ideas for creating a Lei Day-themed booth can be found at the following links:


For more ideas, click here.



Caption: Winner of last yearʻs Best Decorated Booth with a Black and White theme, was Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. Booths are judged on depiction of the annual theme and use of chocolate.

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