Chocolate covered mac nuts! Kona coffee! Did I get your attention? They’re popular products that complete any trip to Hawaii and remind visitors of our island gems in the middle of the Pacific.

Chocolate covered macadamia nuts. ‘Nuff said!

That’s why a local committee is putting together about 9,500 boxes of goodies for international dignitaries attending the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Honolulu. They’ll be able to bring a little bit of Hawaii back home with them and share the tastes, sounds, and scents of the Aloha spirit. Mac nuts, coffee, body lotions, a CD by Braddah IZ and more have been packed away for government officials, including President Barack Obama.

Giving makana (gifts) has been a long-time Hawaiian tradition. It’s a way for the hosts to connect with their visitors. In ancient times, a gift didn’t have to be something tangible; it came in all forms, such as an oli (chant), prized possession or rare item. It had even more meaning if the person made the gift especially with the guest in mind.

Many other countries practice this cultural exchange, and it’s interesting to compare gift giving as done by the Hawaiians and the Maoris. The Hawaiians would hand gifts to the visitors, whereas the Maoris placed gifts on the ground in front of the visitor. A friend of mine, who teaches Hawaiian culture, said that the Maoris started doing this long ago after a gift was given, then taken away. This started a tribal war within the country; so now when the gift is placed on the ground, it means they truly want to give it away. Hawaiians would never put something on the ground because, plain and simple, the ground was dirty. To place a sacred item on the ground would make the gift haumia (filthy; spiritually contaminated).

I’m glad that Hawaii is keeping with tradition and sharing our island culture with the APEC big-wigs. Well-known local companies contributed, including Hawaiian Host Chocolates, designer Tory Richard and the Honolulu Cookie Company. The only thing that could make it more authentic, and from the people, would’ve been to include a couple of the smaller businesses. They could have gotten some valuable exposure alongside other Hawaiian staples and the chance to become one themselves. I’m unsure as to why they weren’t included, other than their possible inability to produce 9,500 handmade lauhala bags (for instance). Either way, APEC is at least bringing much more potential customers to Hawaii’s economy, and in the end, the whole state will get its chance to share the Aloha spirit.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hawaii has long been known for its gift giving, and in fact many of the Miss Hawaii winners, that go on to compete in the Miss America pageant, usually take gifts including flower leis for the other 49 contestants.
    I often send my customers chocolate covered macadamia nuts, or Hawaii Calendar gifts to show my appreciation. Recipeints of these gifts are always delighted. Thanks Alyssa for your excellent blog post.

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