One of the first things people often think of when planning activities in Hawaii is to attend a luau. But what is this and why is it synonymous with Hawaii? Around the world people of all cultures celebrate milestones and events with parties and food, feasting with friends and family. For Hawaiians this party is often called a luau but it’s origins date back to pre-contact with the Western World.
These outdoor celebrations were originally called ‘aha ‘aina and and the events were full of symbolism. Certain foods were deemed to have particular attributes such as strength and other foods, such as pork, bananas and certain fish, were considered delicacies and were off limits to women and to those men not of royal lineage. Indeed men and women did not eat together.
This separation of men and women during meals was ended in 1819 by King Kamehameha II and soon the name of these celebrations changed to luau, which in Hawaiian means feast, and included these foods previously considered delicacies. A roast pig is a featured aspect of these luaus as is taro which is a staple of the native Hawaiian diet and is a core component of the Hawaiian culture.
The luau also includes entertainment such as dancing, particularly the hula, as well as live music, and often also has demonstrations of other skills such as fire knife dancing. These types of dance are also highly symbolic and intertwined with the Hawaiian culture.
There are many luaus in Maui to choose from and we highly recommend attending one while you are in Maui. We’ve been to several and the one I’d personally recommend is the Old Lahaina Luau as it seemed the most authentic and the food and the service was wonderful. Dress attire is casual – clothes should be nicer than beach attire but nothing fancy is required. A sundress or nice shorts and a blouse for women and khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirt or polo shirt for men are pretty standard. In winter months the evenings can get chilly enough that a lightweight sweater might be in order.
Happy feasting! Bring your appetite and your camera!