While the ringing in of a new year often brings hope for renewed minds and fresh starts, the Haitian New Year is a day filled with even more cause for celebration than in the United States. The first of January is welcomed in Haiti with Soup Joumou, a soup steeped in history and a more than two-century old tradition of remembrance.
Before gaining independence from French rule in the 19th century, slaves in Haiti were restricted from eating a flavorful squash soup known as Soup Joumou, as it was considered a delicacy to be enjoyed solely by French elites. On January 1, 1804, under the leadership of revolutionist, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti successfully gained their long awaited independence.
In triumph, Haitians immediately indulged in the soup they were restricted from for so many years—an expression of their new found freedom. To this day, whether in Haiti or not, Haitians will prepare a pot of Soup Joumou, a warming combination of of squash, root vegetables, and meat. Some households add pasta or other personal touches, but you can count on Haitians to be united in commemoration, and in feasting.
The celebration of the Haitian New Year is particularly significant, as you can count on Haitians to be united as they reflect on a shared history and remember a hope for the future.
Want to taste it for yourself? Try this recipe for Soup Journou. You can also learn more about the history that led to this tradition by watching the documentary, Liberty in a Soup, which takes a closer look at the history of Haiti and this beloved culinary symbol.
This year, wish your Haitian friends “Bònn Ane!” (Happy New Years) and “Bònn Fèt Lendepandans!” (Happy Independence Day).