Graduation is one of life’s great milestones. This week, Anchorage high school students are celebrating that milestone with their classmates, and there’s one tradition that’s really blossoming — leis.


After countless years at her craft, Margrette Lalaga’s fingers have found a rhythm as she gracefully entwines white orchids into a garland of tealeaves. Lalaga grew up in Samoa and said she has been making leis since she can remember.


“Back home it’s my mom, I’ve been watching her doing most of the leis,” Lalaga said.


It only takes Lalaga about 20 minutes to complete a popular graduation gift found at her Mountain View store, Polynesian Floral Design.


“This is the busiest time of the year,” Lalaga said, noting just this week she will likely make and sell 200 leis, most of which will adorn the necks of graduates.


Beverly Jones put in a custom order for her son, who is graduating from South Anchorage High School. She said the tradition has spread to all backgrounds and ethnicities in Anchorage.


“It makes them feel extra special because not every kid has a 4.0, not every kid is an honor student but with this sort of thing, every child gets an honor, which makes it even more special I think,” Jones said.


The well-known garland has woven its way into commencement traditions. Historical leis are given to people who are coming and going, making it is perhaps a perfect token for graduates as they embark on life’s next adventure.


Just as popular as flower leis are the ones made from candy or money. Some graduates get so many you can hardly see their faces after they are put around their necks.


KTVA 11’s Shannon Ballard can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.