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Happy New Year to one and all! Iím sure that many of you attended parties to mark the coming of the new year. Throughout the world, feasting has been a universal form of celebrating happy and important events. So for todayís Arts & Culture card from Conquest of Paradise, we take a look at the Luau.

Luaus are traditional Hawaiian celebrations that are used to mark significant events. Originally these feasts were called 'aha 'aina, and were celebrated during such events as the birth of a child, a victorious war, or the return of warriors or adventurers home from long journeys. This card should more properly be called the Ďaha Ďaina card, but I have chosen the more familiar word. The term luau came into favor much later, and refers to the edible taro leaves that traditionally were used to wrap the food prior to being placed in an underground oven.

The feast would begin when this underground oven, or imu, would be uncovered: a large pua'a, or pig, has been cooking throughout the afternoon. Ancient Polynesians devised the imu, essentially a steam oven. First, river rocks are heated over firewood for several hours. When the rocks are sufficiently hot, any remaining firewood is removed and crushed banana stumps (containing a lot of water) are placed on top of the hot rocks- creating the steam- then the food is added, and everything is covered to seal in the steam. Depending on the amount of food, it may take hours for the feast to cook.

The rituals and foods of the luau were extremely symbolic to ancient Hawaiians. The event was meant as a way to unite those who participated in it. Each food eaten at the celebration had a meaning. Some foods represented strength or courage, while others were indicative of other goals, virtues, or aspirations that participants were seeking to obtain.

Much to the consternation of the proper Victorian visitors who first reported these celebrations, utensils were never used at a luau; instead, everything was eaten with the fingers. Poi of various consistencies got its name from the number of fingers needed to eat it: three finger, two finger, or the thickest, one finger poi.

The luau would feature many entertainers, including storytellers, singers, and of course, hula dancing. If the event being celebrated was important enough, an entirely new hula would be composed and preformed to commemorate the event.

In game terms, the Luau card provides the its owner with one Victory Point. The people are happy, the produce of the land is re-distributed to all (including the lowest classes), and a fine tradition is passed on to following generations.

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