Hawaii – Lu’au

A lu’au: the most traditional Hawaiian image in most peoples’ minds. More than just a big party with a lot of food, the lu’au holds an important place in Hawaiian tradition and culture.

Prior to contact with the western world, Hawaiians called their feasts “aha’aina”, signifying “gathering and meal”, and they were held to mark special events such as victory in war, the launching of a new canoe or the start of an important endeavour. These events were, of course, celebrated with friends and families, however men and women ate separately on these occasions.

This all changed in 1819, however, when King Kamehameha II removed all religious laws that were being practiced and, in a symbolic act, ate with the women. This is the beginning of the lu’au as it is now known. The term lu’au comes from the name of the taro leaf in Hawaiian and came to replace “aha’aina”, and commonly includes dishes of poi, dried fish, pork, rice, sweet potatoes and bananas all eaten with the fingers.

Today the lu’au is not just a celebration for families and friends, but for all visitors to the Hawaiian Islands. With plenty of food and incorporating the traditional hula dance, the lu’au has extended to larger audiences by offering a night of entertainment, friendship and tradition.