Ways to the Heart: Food and Foodways in Hawai'i

Class 2: Culturally Important Foods


  • Students will explain how particular foods have become part of today’s cultural feasts.
  • Students will identify foods used in traditional celebrations.

Materials Needed:

  • Downloaded pictures from the Hawai’i ALIVE website (hawaiialive.org) in Wao; Kanaka; woman pounding poi; lu’au at Moanalua
  • Recipes for lu’au food (see Recipes section)
  • Background information on Hawaiian feasts (see Hawaiian Foods section)

First Activity:

A. Celebrations

1. In large or small groups: Discuss how different cultures celebrate occasions such as birthdays, Thanksgiving or harvest, death anniversaries etc.

2. Discuss:

a. What foods have remained the same in the traditional meal? What foods have changed?

b. Have any of the preparation and cooking methods changed?

c. Anything added?

3. In large or small groups make a list of cultural celebrations.

a. Add to that list any special foods identified with that celebration; for example:

Birthday = Birthday cake

Valentine’s Day = Chocolate candies

Japanese New Year = Mochi

b. Write an essay on what food(s) are celebration foods in their family today.

4. Continue the discussion with:

a. What would be Hawaiian celebrations?

b. What is a traditional Hawaiian feast?

c. What kinds of changes do you think happened to a traditional Hawaiian feast of old and a l!’au celebration today?

Second Activity:

B: A Celebration: Planning for a lu’au

1. Most feasts in ancient Hawai’i revolved around the gods. Today’s lu’au may be given a different theme. Have the class decide what they would like to celebrate.

Here are a few examples:

a. Celebrate a naming feast. Students select a name in Hawaiian and explain why they chose the name and its meaning; or they could use the Hawaiian equivalent of their given name. A ceremony would take place followed by the lu’au. (Go on-line to Ulukau.org and click on Hawaiian dictionary for names.)

b. Thanksgiving feast where students would bring canned goods placed on a net where the holes are big enough so the goods would fall through when lifted. Later these can be donated to a food bank. Then the l!’au would follow.

c. Solstice ceremony where students honor the rising of the sun or moon and talk about the ecology and what students would do to sustain the environment. Follow with a lu’au.

2. In a large group decide what foods are to be prepared. Decide on any additional committees to plan the lu’au.

3. Break into small groups for each recipe selected. Groups would discuss necessary tasks and plan a mini-lu’au for the next session.