Visitors rarely have the opportunity to enjoy one of the great traditions in Hawaii: the family luau. If you are invited to attend one while you’re in the islands, by all means leap at the opportunity!

Where you live, there surely are pot-luck parties, where everyone brings his or her own favorite dish to share. The same thing happens at a local family luau here in Hawaii. The family luau is essentially the same thing as the commercial luau attractions that are available, for a price, to everyone. The differences are that everybody knows almost everybody else, the music is more spontaneous, and an occasion of some kind — a baby’s first birthday, for instance — is usually the catalyst.

Imu are dug and pigs are roasted according to tradition, and local food – sashimi, rice, poi, chicken long rice, bean soup – is served. But the food isn’t all “Polynesian” or “local.” Just like anywhere else, favorite family recipes are shared and the results of the various ethnic influences are amazingly enjoyable. Yes, plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers, too.

Especially for a big family luau, catering can be involved; and professional entertainers may be hired to play. (Professional entertainers also play for Auntie or Tutu or Mom and Dad simply because they’re family.)

The fun usually runs well into the night. Anyone who plays a musical instrument brings it. Everybody eats too much. Drinking is part of the fun. Throats grow raw from singing. Unattending neighbors are tolerant. Clean-up is shared by family, neighbors and friends. It’s a wonderful experience. Try to wrangle an invitation if you become aware of such a gathering during your visit.


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