Here's why Haitians Eat Soup Joumou on January 1st
Updated: Apr 15
Growing up in a Haitian household meant cleaning the house and preparing for potential guests from Christmas right up until New Years Eve?
Why? Because while everyone else was celebrating New Year's Day on January 1st, Haitians were also celebrating their Independence Day.
On this blog and my Youtube channel, I've spoken in great length about the Haitian Revolution and the significance of it.
I don't want to repeat myself too much so I recommend that you can read my previous blog post about the Haitian Revolution and why I think everyone should know about it.
What is Soup Joumou?
Today, I want to focus on the Soup Joumou and why it is a must have meal in every Haitian household on January 1st.
Soup Joumou is a very rich and hearty pumpkin soup that is mildly spicy. This recipe can differ from one household to the next but it usually contains meat (usually beef), vegetables and herbs- carrot, cabbage, scallion, thyme, potatoes, peppers and is finished off with either spaghetti or macaroni noodles.
Every year, I looked forward to having soup joumou as my first meal for the day and would watch my mother make a big pot that was just enough for possible guests who stopped by or for to go containers that my mom would pack and deliver to her colleagues. It was not uncommon to have a lot of visitors on this day and so it was very important to have enough soup. It was better to have too much soup than not enough soup.
Image from Getty images by Claude Pierre Louis
Why is Soup Joumou so important on this day?
As I started to get more curious about my Haitian roots, I started to question why THIS meal in particular was eaten on independence day and decided to research the reason behind it.
Turns out that my ancestors were resilient in not only defeating the French and gaining their independence but they also claimed this meal as their own as in slavery days, Soup Joumou was only reserved for the French slave masters.
I guess it's only fitting that the enslaved celebrated their new found freedom by eating this soup as this meal that was once a tool of oppression was now enjoyed by the very people who had to make it in the first place.
Although I haven't been able to have soup joumou for over 6 years because I moved from home, I was lucky enough to find an authentic Haitian restaurant in Toronto by the name of Boukan, who was serving soup joumou today.
I visited them in the summer of 2021 and tried out some of their other dishes which you can check out in the video below
The importance of continuing this tradition
This tradition has been passed on to the future generation and as of this year, Haiti celebrates 218 years of independence. Despite the current state of Haiti, it is important that those of us living in Haiti and in the diaspora continue this tradition and also do the necessary work to get Haiti to a place it deserves to be so that our children and their children can have a place to call home. It won't be an easy task, but if we work together in true unity, it can be possible. Our ancestors did it before and their blood runs through us so let's not let their sacrifice be for nothing.