This all changed in 1819, when King Kamehameha II abolished traditional religious practices. A feast at which the king ate with women was the symbolic act that put an end to Hawaiian religious taboos, and the luau was born. The favorite dish this holiday season is what gave the luau its name. In old Hawaii, the festival of `aha`aina was both a religious experience and an important part of the lifestyle of the early ohana (family).
The food prepared for the party was precious to the early Hawaiians, as it provided a vital source of vital food from the gods. In these early 19th century Hawaiian aha'aina, men and women ate separately, and only Hawaiian chiefs could enjoy certain foods. However, in 1819, King Kamehameha II put an end to all religious laws and invited women to eat together with men: the luau holidays were born. Fueled by travel writing, tourist art and Hollywood movies (Kings 199), no food is as exotic and yet seemingly familiar as the Hawaiian luau.
Similarly, the very “Merry Monarch”, King Kalakaua, received more than 1,500 guests for the luau celebration of his 50th birthday in 1883, with guests fed in three separate periods. In almost every respect, Savage's representation of the traditional luau and the accompanying text are historically inaccurate. Luaus has always been a social, cultural, spiritual and entertainment event, with all guests wearing a classic Hawaiian lei. While they were allowed to eat popular dishes such as poi, sweet potatoes and other types of fish, it was not until 1819, when King Kamehameha II invited women to eat with the group, that the practice evolved and became known as' luau ', named after a traditional local dish made of taro leaves and chicken baked coconut milk.
But the luau continues to play an important role in the lives of native Hawaiians, who honor tradition by holding a luau festival to celebrate life's major events and strengthen the bonds of family and community. As tourists come to Hawaii looking to immerse themselves in culture, the luau has expanded into a multi-purpose party without the need for any occasion. The largest luau was in 1847, when Kamehameha III organized a party that required 271 pigs, 482 large pumpkins full of poi, 3,125 saltwater fish, 1,820 freshwater fish, 2,245 coconuts and 4,000 taro plants. One of the most legendary ancient luaus includes the 1847 event of King Kamehameha III, during which attendees consumed his order of more than 4,000 taro plants, 271 pigs, 482 poi pumpkins, 2,245 coconuts and 5,000 fish in an opulent celebration feast.
There was nothing like the traditional secular luau shown on “Island Feast” with men and women from different social ranks feasting on pork and bananas together. The Luau, an ancient Polynesian and Hawaiian ritual, is a popular social gathering aimed at uniting the people of a city in celebration of an important life event, achievement, war victory or launching a new canoe. Figure 1 shows the luau portrayed in “Island Feast”, an accomplished example of high-tourism art painted by Eugene Savage. As knowledge of Hawaii spread around the world, many foreigners came to see the luau in action, and many more heard about it in their home country.
If you received an invitation to a luau party, be sure to bring comfortable clothes and footwear, such as shirts, blouses, shorts, summer pants, and Hawaiian sandals.