Was Hawaii's Kamehameha Samoan

Hawaii's Traditions: the Luau

In Hawaii, despite proselytizing and colonizing, many of the old customs have still been maintained and are lived as a matter of course in the Hawaiian culture. One of those ancient traditions is that Luau.

A luau is basically nothing more than a gathering, a festival. It is traditionally within one's own family that the Ohana, celebrated, with more than a hundred people taking part. There are also luaus for entire villages and other communities. Luaus are only held on special occasions, for example weddings, birthdays or nowadays also for graduation.

In a traditional luau, certain Hawaiian dishes are served and other Hawaiian customs also play a role in luaus: For example, there is a for the guests Hula danced, there will be the typical flower chains that Quiet and occasionally even fire dances are performed.

Brief history of the luau

When Hawaii was still relatively free from Western influences, the occasions on which a luau was celebrated were still called Ahaaina. Aha means something like meeting and Aina can be translated as a meal a Ahaaina so it was a gathering to eat together. How important eating together was for the Hawaiian tribes is explained by their beliefs: Certain foods were considered particularly sacred and so it is still these dishes that are served in a modern luau.
Incidentally, in ancient Hawaii, women and men were not allowed to party together. It was not until King Kamehameha II ended the traditional gender segregation in 1819 and rang the bell with a Ahaaina, where women and men were allowed to eat together, heralded a new era.

Today the old ahaainas have been replaced by the less formal Luau, but the principle remains the same: Eating traditional dishes together, talking and telling stories is the focus of a Luau. The dishes that are elaborately prepared for a luau are part of Hawaiian culture such as the hula dance and the ukulele.

Luau 1890

Luau today

Traditionally, a Kalua pig is ceremonially made in the Imu, an underground earth oven. The cooking time is about a day, after which the meat is so tender that you can simply pick it apart with a fork like pulled pork. Also Laulau, Meat that is wrapped in taro leaves and also cooked in the Imu is part of a successful feast. This will be Poi enough, a porridge made from taro roots.

Other dishes of a real luau include chicken and rice, which is served with ginger and coconut milk, Lomi Lomi, a salad of salmon, tomatoes and onions and of course Poke, raw fish with soy sauce and various vegetables.

Imu 1907

Imu today

Today, luaus take place all over Hawaii with nice regularity. Usually such more commercially oriented Luaus are organized by tour operators and hotels for tourists and visitors. Usually dance performances and other extras are also performed. For a first impression of Hawaiian culture and cuisine, such tourist luaus are quite suitable, but a real, traditional luau is something completely different. Usually such luaus are only organized in close family or friends and to be invited to a family luau is a great honor.

However, real Hawaiian luaus with a traditional focus also take place on a grand scale. We recommend the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui or the traditional Luau in the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu.

Would you like to take part in one of these luaus? No problem! Our Hawaii experts are happy to plan participation in their individual travel itinerary! Contact us!

Photos: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu - public domain, Hawaii State Archives - public domain, Mynameisben123 - CC BY 3.0, http://www.marines.mil - public domain, Andreas Faessler - CC BY-SA 4.0; via Wikipedia.

This entry was posted in Hawaii, did you know ...? And tagged Banquet, Hawaii, Imu, Luau, Poai by Pacific Travel House. Permanent link to the entry.