Lu'au - The Best Party on the Island!
Throughout the world, feasting is a universal form of celebrating happy and important events. The Polynesians, and especially Hawaiians, have evolved this great pleasure into a truly unique cultural experience called a Lu’au. A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment. An authentic luau may feature traditional Hawaiian food such as poke, poi, lomi salmon, opihi, haupia and the famous kalua pig. The kalua pig, tender, shredded pork cooked in an imu - underground oven, is usually brought out of the underground oven during a traditional imu ceremony. The entertainment a combination of Hawaiian music and traditional hula completes the Polynesian festivities. A perfect celebration of culture and camaraderie.
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The History of Hula
Hula, truly unique to the Hawaiian Islands is a dance form accompanied by chant or song and was developed in the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians who originally settled there. The hula dramatizes the words of the chant or song in a visual dance form. Ancient hula was performed through chant accompanied by traditional instruments. The more western influenced hula of today is accompanied by song and musical instruments such as the guitar, ukulele, and the double bass. There are two main positions of a hula dance, either sitting or standing. Some dances incorporate both forms.
The History of the Lu'au
For generations, the luau has been an Hawaiian feast held in honor of important milestones and special occasions. The tastes, sounds and sights evoke a feeling of warmth, togetherness and appreciation for a culture unlike anything else. Before contact with the western world, Hawaiians called their important feasts an 'aha'aina (‘aha – gathering and ‘aina – meal). These feasts marked special occasions — such as reaching a significant life milestone, victory at war, the launching of a new canoe or a great endeavor. Nowadays Luau’s are still a part of the Hawaiian culture and enjoyed during such occasions as weddings, birthdays and graduations.
Historically, the food and practices observed at an 'aha 'aina were rich with symbolism and the entire event was designed to unite the participants, similar to the way the old Hawaiians braided strands of coconut husk fiber, or sennit, into thicker 'aha cords and rope. Certain foods represented strength while the names or attributes of other foods related to virtues or goals the participants hoped to achieve. There were also certain foods that were off limits to commoners and women. Such delicacies included moi (exquisite tasting near-shore reef fish), pork, and bananas were forbidden to all but the Alii (chiefs of ancient Hawai'i) including the great King Kamehameha. Men and women also ate separately during meals.
In 1819 King Kamehameha II ended traditional religious practices. To celebrate this event he feasted with women to signify major societal changes. Shortly after, the term luau gradually replaced 'aha 'aina. Luau, in Hawaiian is actually the name of the taro leaf, which when young and small is cooked like spinach. The traditional luau was eaten on the floor over lauhala (leaves of the hala tree were weaved together) mats. Luau attendees enjoyed poi (staple of Polynesian food made from the corm of the taro plant), dried fish, and pork cooked in the traditional Hawaiian imu (underground oven), sweet potatoes, bananas and everything was eaten with one’s fingers. Traditional luaus were typically a very large gathering with hundreds and sometimes over a thousand people attending.
Today, people still get together with families and friends at a luau to celebrate those special events. And while these private gatherings are private, visitors can enjoy the luau experience at many venues offered around the islands. The abundant food served at any luau represents the Island Aloha spirit that brings guests and islanders together in a memorable setting. Whenever you are at a luau you are ohana - family.