January 1st is not only New Year’s Day, it is also Independence Day in Haiti. January 1, 1804 Haiti made history by being the first successful slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti’s name of origin is Hispaniola, meaning “Little Spain.” This name was given to the island, now separated into the Dominican Republic and Haiti, by Christopher Columbus after he discovered it in 1492.
Toussaint L’Ouverture, along with other Haitian generals, lead his country to victory over the French General Le Clerc; making him a Haitian hero. Today, the airport in Port-au-Prince is named in honor of General L’Ouverture.
A great tradition that Haitians all over the world continue to carry out is Soup Joumou. When the French controlled Haiti they established a law stating they were the only ones who could eat soup. This law established their status as upper class. The French have a long-standing tradition of eating soup on New Year’s Day and blacks were not allowed to participate in this tradition. In 1804, when Haitians proclaimed their independence, the new tradition of Haitians eating soup began. This tradition of eating soup on New Year’s Day is a symbol to demonstrate that everyone is equal.
In honor of New Year’s Day and the celebration of freedom and independence, we cook and eat Haitian Pumpkin Soup today.