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

Hawaiian Feasts

1. Feasts in Pre-European times

Feasts were planned for the enjoyment of the participants, and to seek the fellowship, help or pardon of the gods. Aha’aina, meaning “gathering for a meal,” were usually large feasts commemorating special occasions or honoring certain persons.

Pa’ina, a small party, did not have the significance of an ‘aha’aina.

Luau means young edible taro leaves. It is now used as the name for a feast in which Hawaiian foods, including lu’au (taro leaves) are served.

There were feasts of welcome, of harvest, for the newly born, and the anniversary of death.

2. Makahiki

The Hawaiian calendar observed the feast of Lono, the god of peace, agriculture and healing, during the period called Makahiki. During this time no real work took place and hostilities were suspended. It was a time of honoring and giving thanks to Lono for the bountiful harvest and a time of celebrations and games.

The image of Lono was paraded from village to village with the priests leading the procession. Upon entering the village an area was cleared and the people would bring their produce and their wares as offerings to Lono. These would be gathered up and taken to the High Chief to be redistributed. A net with large eyes was filled with goods and lifted by men and shaken. What fell through the net was symbolic of the bountiful harvest and the prosperous year to come. Games of skill and strength would follow and feasting would commence. This would last for several days and the completion of touring all the villages would last for three months.