|A luau (Hawaiian lu'au) is a traditional Hawaiian feast that
normally features foods such as poi, kalua pig (pork prepared in an imu,
or earth oven), poke, and lomi salmon, among others. Hawaii residents often
hold luaus to celebrate special occasions, such as a child's first birthday.
Commercial operations in Hawaii also specialize in luaus that cater to visitors
to the Islands.
Among the Hawaiian people, it was the custom to celebrate auspicious occasions with a feast. Called the aha'aina, the feast had spiritual significance; it was thought that they were sharing a meal with the gods. In ancient times, men and women could not eat together, and certain foods such as pork, bananas, and coconut were forbidden to women. In 1819, King Kamehameha II abolished the kapu (taboo) system by partaking in a feast with women, thus severing the spiritual connection of the aha'aina.
The term lu'au began to be used in the mid-1800s to refer to what was the aha'aina. It took its name from a dish made from young taro leaves and meat or seafood, baked in coconut milk.