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What is the history of the luau?

In pre-missionary Hawai`i, both special religious occasions and human milestones were observed with feasting. Food in early Hawai`i was very often scarce and precious. What food they had, they shared with each other and with the gods. For feasts and even ordinary meals were important ways of communicating with the gods and one's fellow man. During the feast or meal, the ancestral gods were usually brought out and they were also given their share of the meal - beyond a ritual offering of the spiritual essence or (aka) of the food.

In old Hawai'i , the `aha`aina feast was both a religious experience and an important part of the early ohana (family) way of life. The food prepared for the feast was precious to the early Hawaiian, for it provided vital source of life's nourishment from the gods.

Today, the observance of the religious significance of the `aha`aina has all but disappeared and a feast, as it is hosted and celebrated in contemporary times, has become essentially, a purely social affair.

While today's menu is similar to the food that was served at a traditional `aha`aina, much of the religious significance and symbolism of the foods are usually forgotten.