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For other uses, see Luau (disambiguation).
Hawaiians roast a pig for an 1890 luau
Princess Kaiulani's luau banquet at ʻĀinahau for the U.S. Commissioners in 1898
Dancers and musicians at a commercial luau

A luau (Hawaiian: lū‘au) is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment. It may feature food such as poi, kalua pig, poke, lomi salmon, opihi, haupia, and beer and entertainment such as traditional Hawaiian music and hula. Among people from Hawaii, the concepts of "luau" and "party" are often blended, resulting in graduation luaus, wedding luaus, and birthday luaus.


Robert Louis Stevenson at Royal Luau, 1889

In ancient times, including ancient Hawaii, men and women ate their meals separately; also women and the rest of society were not allowed to eat foods that were not common or foods that were only served during special occasions. However, in 1819, King Kamehameha II removed all the religious laws that were practiced. King Kamehameha II performed a symbolic act by eating with the women, thus ending the Hawaiian religious taboos. This is when the luau parties were first created.[1]

People dancing at a luau


Earlier, such a feast was called a pā‘ina or 'aha‘aina. The newer name comes from that of a food always served at a luau: the main dish of the luau is called pig. It is made of chicken baked in coconut milk and then taro is added. Another dish that was served is poi, a diet food made from the roots of taro. This feast was usually served on the floor; on the mats there were usually large centerpieces. In most cases the centerpieces were made of ti leaves. Utensils were never present during a luau; everything was eaten by hand. For example, poi received its name from the number of fingers needed to eat it: "three-finger, two-finger, or the thickest, one-finger poi". Recommended foods for a luau would be pork, poi, salmon, tropical fruits, and taro chips.

Luau-themed parties[edit]

Luau-themed or Hawaiian-themed parties vary in their range of dedication to Hawaiian traditions. For example, some extravagant affairs go so far as to ship food from the islands, while others settle for artificial leis, maitais, and a poolside atmosphere.

To have a Luau themed party, it is essential to have an open area, such as a backyard, because Luaus are celebrated under large tents in outdoor areas. Also a lei is a very important part of a luau. A lei is a necklace of flowers, or beads that men and women wear. It is traditional for the women to wear a lei of flowers and the men to wear a lei of beads. At luau-themed parties, the guests can make their own leis or they can be bought. At these types of parties entertainment is a must. The instruments used are typically the ukulele and the drums. There are also dancers.


  • Brennan, Jennifer (2000), Tradewinds and Coconuts: A Reminiscence and Recipes from the Pa ific Islands, Periplus, ISBN 962-593-819-2 .
  • Philpotts, Kaui (2004), Great Chefs of Hawaiʻi, Honolulu, Hawaii: Mutual Publishing, ISBN 1-56647-595-3 .
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena; Samuel H. Elbert (1986), Hawaiian Dictionary, Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, ISBN 0-8248-0703-0 

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