January 1st: Haitian Independence Day

January 2, 2015

January 1st is special for Haitians not only because it is the first day of the new year but also because it the date Haiti declared its independence. 2015 marks the 211th Independence Day for Haiti.

January 1, 1804, Haiti made history by becoming the first black republic in the world and the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. The first two days of the calendar year are dedicated to commemorate the Independence Day and celebrate Ancestors’ Day. Remembering the Founders of Haiti and the individuals who sacrificed their lives during the fight for independence. The universal need to be free by breaking out of their chains and claiming their human rights.

Serving and eating Soup Joumou on Haiti’s Independence Day is an integral part of the celebration. During the colonization period in Haiti, only the French masters could eat this soup for good fortune, forbidding the slaves from eating it. On January 1, 1804, to celebrate freedom and express victory, Emperor Jean Jacques Dessalines asked his wife, Marie Claire Heureuse Felicite Bonheur Dessalines, to cook and offer the soup to the former slaves as a message to the defeated masters.

Soup Joumou (pronounced joo-moo) is a famous soup native to Haitian cuisine, although variations of it can be found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The soup is traditionally based on pumpkin, but although winter squash can be used instead. The pumpkin slices are simmered in a saucepan along with pieces of beef, potato, plantains and vegetables such as parsley, carrots, green cabbage, celery andonions. The pumpkin is then puréed, usually in a food processor, with water and the purée is returned to the saucepan, where salt and seasoning along with garlic and other herbs and spices are added. Thin pasta such as vermicelli and macaroni and a small amount of butter or oil is sometimes also put in. The soup is always served hot and is usually accompanied with a sliced bread with which to dip in the soup.

 

(Content credit: Embassy of the Republic of Haiti/ Washington, DC 2014, and Wikepedia)

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