The luau presents a few ceremonies prior to the actual dinner and hula show. We saw the following:
*Shower of Flowers: a guy climbed a super tall tree (probably somewhere around 50 feet) and threw flower petals down on all of us.
*Hukilau on the Beach: men drew cast nets out in the ocean and spread the nets along the shore while riding in old wooden canoes. It’s technically defined as “the ceremonial pulling of fish nets to the rhythms of the conch shell and Hawaiian chants.”
[We have some stellar video footage of this but my video editing software has a glitch. Be looking for videos coming in a few weeks though!]
*Imu Ceremony: This is where a large pit is dug in the ground. Lava rocks are heated over an open flame until they are unbearably hot. The lava rocks are placed in the pit, lined by some type of greenery which will reinforce the steaming process and add a kick of flavor. Men then place a cleaned pig inside the hot pit and cover the top with more greenery for insulation and flavor. They will lay another protective covering over the greenery, then more soil. The cooking process alone takes about eight hours. Along with luaus, you may also see this ritual brought to life at a backyard barbeque in Hawaii.
We learned several different ways to tie a sarong. During this particular demonstration, we also realized that the man demonstrating how to wear a sarong ONLY wears a sarong - nothing underneath it. As he summoned the guests to the different activities, he would blow the resounding conch shell. Thus, he was known fondly by the guests as "the half-naked conch shell blowing guy."
After the coconut-cracking demonstration, the hula dancing demonstration takes place. The women gather around the meager stage, attempting to sway our hips and our hands at the same time. Hula dancing is a very special ritual among the Polynesian / Hawaiian culture. Each movement represents a word. My favorite part was when we were required to wave our hands and arms toward “the one I love.” Cheesy, but oh so true. If you're really into learning this sacred series of dances, you must become one with the movements and objects in which you are portraying in the dance.
Travel Tip: Try to eat as much food from the culture that you can. We tried to eat the traditional Hawaiian food at the luau. Our plates were filled with macaroni salad, pasta salad, poi (a tara root paste that looks like dirt and tastes like it too), lomi lomi salmon, mochiko chicken (the same as Hawaiian BBQ), Kalua pig, steamed rice, rolls, pineapple, haupia and banana coconut cake. Very few of the dishes appealed to our likings, yet neither of our tastebuds is accustomed to those tastes.
Music erupted from the speakers. Hula dancers, elaborate costumes and bright colors filled the stage. The spotlight centered on a woman in purple as she started singing a traditional Hawaiian song about friends and family gathering together. A loud applaud burst from the audience. "Mahalo," she said tenderly. "This means 'thank you' in our language." The lively night consisted of non-stop entertainment, laughter, fire, music, and unstoppable hip movements.
We thought our favorite dance would be the “Marriage Dance” but we were saddened at the symbolism of it… the wife danced in front while the husband stood behind her by a few feet, just watching with his hands folded in front of him. Though quite contrary to the actual picture of marriage, we couldn't help but find humor in this.
If you are planning a trip to Hawaii ever in your lifetime, you MUST go to a luau. Here, you will be exposed to the history, customs, traditions and food of Hawaii. Isn’t that what traveling is all about? The treasure of travel is that we have the opportunity to experience the customs, beauty and knowledge that we are only able to attain when we truly engulf ourselves into a culture. In order to accomplish this glorious feat, both research and risks are required. Nevertheless, the experience and thrill far outweighs the time and energy spent prior to the trip.