Hawaiian Traditional Gifts

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Hawaii is home to some of the most distinct flowers in the world.
Hawaii is home to some of the most distinct flowers in the world. (Image: Hawaii orchid image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com)

Hawaiian history is full of legend and folklore. While coffee, macadamia nuts, hula skirts and Polynesian tee-shirts all represent Hawaiian culture, there are other gifts that showcase Hawaiian legend and craftsmanship. Traditional Hawaiian gifts represent the beauty of the Islands, the deep Polynesian culture and the history of the Hawaiian people.

Hawaiian Leis

No other gift is as symbolic of Hawaii as the lei. Leis traditionally represent love, respect, congratulations, reverence and welcome. Flowers typically provide the material for leis now, but human hair, bird feathers, shells and dog teeth were all used by the ancient Hawaiians. A lei is an appropriate gift to say congratulations to someone, but Hawaiian tradition says never give a lei to a pregnant woman because it may bring bad luck to the unborn child. It's also traditional to give a kiss on the cheek to the person receiving the lei.

Floral leis are fragrant and colorful.
Floral leis are fragrant and colorful. (Image: aloha image by Mark Aplet from Fotolia.com)

Hawaiian Fish Hooks

Hawaiian fish hooks, or makau, are worn as a symbol of Hawaiian culture. This might seem odd at first, until you consider how very important the ocean was and is to traditional Hawaiian culture--a sustaining source of food, and a never-ending source of beauty and fun. Fishermen throughout Hawaiian history carved their own hooks for fishing, and skilled fishermen knew what type of hook would catch what type of fish. Hawaiian fishermen, or lawai‘a, used hooks made of bone, both human and animal, to catch larger fish, while hooks carved from pearl or turtle shell pulled smaller game from the sea. Today, carvers of makau necklaces usually use bone or wood. Koa wood is a prized Hawaiian wood and is often used to make contemporary fish hook jewelry.

Peridot Jewelry

Peridot is a green gem whose subtle color is sometimes difficult to see in daylight, a quality that gave rise to an ancient belief that it actually disappears during the day. Peridot is believed to bring wealth, peace and secure relationships, and to strengthen the spleen, liver and gall bladder. In 1911 the American geologist and vulcanologist Frank Perret named the green crystals found in the sand at Papkolea Beach, Hawaii, "Pele's Tears." In Hawaiian legend, Pele is the goddess of fire and volcanoes, and she is believed to live in the volcano Kilauea. Papkolea Beach is at the southern tip of Hawaii's big island and the sand there and in other locations near volcanoes is full of tiny green flecks of peridot. Thus peridot has a strong association with Hawaii, and makes a rare and beautiful gift of jewelry.

Hawaii's volcanic areas are sources of peridot.
Hawaii's volcanic areas are sources of peridot. (Image: Vulcano image by Burkhard Anders from Fotolia.com)

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