31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 13:: Culture, customs and traditions: Baby Luau

A few weekends ago, The Coach and I attended one of my favorite island-style events: a baby luau.

A dearly loved Hawaiian cultural tradition, a baby luau is a child’s first birthday party, but generally a much bigger deal than these types of events tend to be on the mainland. Imagine an event more on the scale of a wedding, with hundreds of guests and all the embellishments that go along with a momentous occasion.

The way a baby’s first birthday got to be such a major thing here has to do with the high rates of infant mortality in past centuries. For a child to survive his first year of life was by no means a given, hence it was deeply valued, and therefore an occasion for families to come together in gratitude and celebration.

Nowadays it’s still expected that you’ll do a big party for your baby’s first birthday, and that your family and friends will all chip in and help make it happen. The one we went to recently was at a beachside club, and included Hawaiian music; activities like an inflatable bounce house, face painting, and a photo booth; thematic decorations and favors, and of course, a delicious meal.

It’s called a luau because traditional Hawaiian foods are served: kalua pig, lomilomi salmon, chicken long rice, poi, haupia. If you like Hawaiian food — as I do — you’ll be in heaven. It’s no time to stick to your diet!

After everyone’s eaten, the baby’s family will say a few word of thanks to the guests, we’ll all sing Happy Birthday, and have some birthday cake. The festivities may well continue for several hours, even if the guest of honor needs to go down for a nap.

Young cousins and friends help serve the food

Guests gather for a yummy lunch

The birthday boy and his parents extend their aloha and thanks to their families

This is the thirteenth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

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