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Hawaii Club Annual Luaus

Hawaii is the most geographically isolated land mass in the world. Even though it is part of the United States, it is nearly 3000 miles away from the US Mainland. It is also the most ethnically diverse state in America, with not a single ethnic majority. Because of these and other factors, Hawaii has a unique feel to it. Many of its students have never been to the Mainland for more than a short trip to Disneyland , nor have they even felt like a real minority. So Hawaii students at colleges on the mainland usually suffer from a culture shock more intense than that felt by other students. To ease the homesickness, Hawaii students at various colleges join a “Hawaii Club”. Hawaii Clubs usually comprised of people from Hawaii, although anybody can join.  

The funny thing about students from Hawaii is that they get so excited when they meet another Hawaii student at their school. Usually within the first 15 seconds, they will exchange such fundamental information like what high school they are from and what year they graduated. Based on these two questions, the conversation quickly turns to, do-you-know-so-and-so? And the answer is inevitably yes. While Hawaii is a state with just over 1 million people, it feels like a small town in that respect.  

Another thing that Hawaii people miss right away is the food, followed shortly after by the music and the pidgin slang that is casually spoken to various degrees by most Hawaii people. It is no wonder that when home sickness hits a Hawaii student, it hits hard and fast. The Hawaii Clubs exist to relieve this anxiety.  

Hawaii Clubs exist at almost every major university around the country. Where ever there are Hawaii kids, there is probably a Hawaii Club. The Hawaii Clubs on the West Coast are usually pretty big, especially at schools like the University of Washington, USC, the UC Schools, Santa Clara University, and other schools popular with Hawaii kids.  

While each Hawaii Club is different, they typically meet once a month to plan events like their annual luau or to attend social or sporting events. Some of the most popular events are to go watch the athletic teams of the University of Hawaii play their road games on the mainland. For football games, it is not unusual for several thousand Hawaii fans, many of them students, to cheer for the University of Hawaii on the road. In some cases like Men’s and Women’s volleyball teams, which are extremely popular in Hawaii, the Hawaii fans will outnumber the fans of the home team.

But the signature event for most Hawaii Clubs is the annual luau, typically held between March and May. The Hawaii Clubs go all-out to put on a show to remember. Students, most of them for the first time, will participate in preparing the food, practicing hula, and organizing a large scale show. Even the parents back home get involved sending ti leaves, Hawaiian flowers, laulau, Hawaiian shirts and dresses, and other hard-to-get things via air cargo. The luaus are usually open to the public for the price of a ticket. The audience is treated to an evening of food, entertainment, and camaraderie. Luau attendance can range from as low as 100 people to over 1,500. It is a chance for the Hawaii kids to be part of a big production and to feel like they are back in Hawaii, if even for just a few hours.  

Outside Hawaii, you will probably never see so many people in Hawaiian shirts (Hawaii people call it Aloha shirts) with real flower leis celebrating Hawaiian culture with each other and with perfect strangers. If you ever have a chance to check out one of these Hawaii Club luaus, especially the large ones, you owe it to yourself to see what it’s all about.