Many people who want a Hawaiian gift basket, want the Hawaiian gifts to be in a handwoven lauhala basket. A lauhala basket has come to symbolize Hawaii because of the ancient native Hawaiian tradition of weaving (the correct word is actually plaiting but most people say weaving) lauhala into numerous useful items. The Hawaiian people wove lauhala into canoe sails, wall thatchings, window shutters, roof linings, mats, and even clothing! Today most contemporary weavers make lauahala purses, placemats, napkin holders, and of course baskets.
What is lauhala and where does it come from? Before I tell you the correct answer, I was dismayed to see several online Hawaiian gift retailers mistakenly referring to lauhala as a lauhala grass, with their description of "lauhala grass basket". Lauhala does not come from a grass, it comes from the Hawaiian Hala tree. The Hawaiian word lau simply means leaf, so lauhala translates to the leaf from the Hala tree.
The Hawaiian Hala tree is a species of Pandanus, or screwpine, because the leaves grow in a screw pattern up the trunk of the tree. It is a wide spread native tree found growing on beaches as well as the mountains through out the Hawaiian Islands. The Hala tree has numerous long aerial prop roots, and long sturdy but flexible leaves with sharp razor like teeth or thorns on the edge of the leaves. It also has fruit that resemble a pineapple--creating a visual joke that locals have been playing on tourists since probably the start of tourism. Has anyone heard of pineapples coming from the "pineapple tree"?
Weaving a lauhala basket is a labor intensive process as the hala leaves need to be prepared and cleaned properly, then stripped into uniform strips before you can even begin to make the basket. View illustrated instructions on how to weave a lauhala basket.
If you don't want to make your own lauhala gift basket, please visit us if you are ever in the need for some great Hawaiian gifts packaged in lauhala gift baskets. We also do custom lauhala gift baskets where you can choose from any of our Hawaiian gifts to create a unique gift basket.