The Highlight of Hawaii
If you too will be traveling to the Hawaiian Islands, you probably already know that attending a luau is a must. Not only will you have the chance to try a variety of fabulous traditional dishes, but you’ll enjoy it all while taking in a show filled with Hawaiian music and dance – usually topped off by a couple of complimentary Mai Tais. To appreciate the experience even more, you may want to know a little about the history of this ancient tradition.
Ancient luau practices
The Hawaiian luau dates back to ancient times, but the first recorded Hawaiian luau was held in 1819 by King Kamehameha II and his stepmother, Queen Ka’ahumanu. This event was said to have been the catalyst for the luau that is known in Hawaii today. In ancient Hawaii, men and women ate their meals separately due to their powerful religious beliefs that only royalty could eat certain delicacies. There was a fear that women could steal the men’s spirit, known as mana, while they were in the relaxed state induced by the generous feast. Women ate at what was known as the hale aina, or women’s house, while men ate at the hale mua, or men’s house.
In 1819, the King enjoyed the feast with women as a symbolic act to end these religious taboos, and the modern luau was born. It is not known why he made this decision, but some feel it may have been due to his recently acquired Christian beliefs. Prior to this date, a Luau, as it is held today would have been punishable by death under the ancient Hawaiian law that was governed by the kapu system.
The Modern Luau
Much has changed with Luaus. Today you can expect dinner on the beach at sunset. You can engage in a variety of activities such as Lei making, spear throwing, or finding your tribal marking. Prepare to experience traditional Hawaiian foods including, the traditional pig roasted in an underground oven, dried fish, salted meats, sweet potatoes, noodles, rice, and a variety of fresh fruit.
After dinner, be prepared to be entertained and educated at the same time. Through beautiful dance, you will learn the history of Hawaii and the island you are visiting. You will see emotional dances, rituals, and traditions. And if you're lucky like I was, you will experience an award-winning fire dancer.
Luaus are an amazing way to experience local food and culture. If you are headed to Hawaii, this should definitely be on your to-do list.