Soup Joumou is a national treasure in Haiti. It represents freedom and new beginnings. It is prepared on January 1st, Haiti’s Independence Day. It’s made with pumpkin, vegetables, meat and spices. If you don’t eat it on New Year, you’ll lose your Haitian pass.
On New Year, my house was always filled with people: family members, friends, the street vendors, actual strangers. Soup joumou brought all of us together. We ate, we drank, we danced, we laughed. On New Year, there is a sense of harmony.
I remember one of my last New Year in Haiti. I was about 11. It was sunny out, clear blue skies, penetrating warmth. I had woken up to the smell of joumou on the oven and sounds of laughter and the TV. The gates were left open. By noon, the house was filled with people. When joumou was prepared, plates and bowls of soup joumou started passing around. Mouths were chewing, speaking, laughing, spewing bits- it was beautiful. Music was blasting. The street vendors were house hoppers, eating from house to house. “Pa bliye on plat you entel." Everyone has to be fed.
When I came to the U.S., January 1st lost its meaning. There were no strangers, no music blasting . There wasn’t an overflowing amount of soup either. My stepfather doesn't eat Soup Joumou. So for many New Years, I did not celebrate. I woke up to no comforting sounds. My mother was often at work on New Year so I couldn’t share this moment with her. We both spent New Year alone in our corners. “Happy Independence Day, Haiti!”