Happy New Year and Haitian Independence

It’s a New Year…out with the old, in with the new. At midnight, all around the world people celebrate the passing of the old year and happily welcome the beginning of a new year. The calendar year is based on the Earth’s 365 day cycle around the Sun. This journey around the sun enables the cycle of the seasons. It is a measure of time and how we date all of the extraordinary events in our lives.

The New Year always signals hope. We say goodbye to the old year with all of its ups and downs and greet the new one with excitement. We celebrate the start of the year by calling our loved ones and extending wishes for good health and prosperity. Sometimes elaborate firework displays not only illuminate the skies but also symbolize the scaring away of evil spirits and to usher in good karma. At midnight, we make champagne toasts and extend good wishes for the year ahead. In general, the early days of the New Year are filled with positivity and good will.

In Haiti, people gather with close friends and family on New Years Eve to welcome January 1st with happiness and camaraderie. For some it may be small intimate gatherings at someone’s home or for others it may be more spectacular event with a lavish dinner and dancing to live bands until dawn. In the public squares or parks, several hundreds of people of all ages gather. They listen to free concerts, buy food from local vendors and celebrate the new year with excitement until the early hours of the morning. January 1 is of double celebration and is also the date of the Independence of Haïti.

Toasting the New Year

In 1804, the courageous Fathers of the Independence movement, collectively rallied the slaves around the Island to rise up against the French Colonial masters. They planned the successful rebellion and valiantly fought to establish Haiti as the first Free Black Republic. The French lost their most precious and profitable colony dubbed the “Pearl of the Antilles”. The price of freedom was heavy for Haiti and one which the French ensured would cost the Haitian people dearly in retributions for generations. The newly found freedom and successful uprising in Haiti cast a deep fear among other colonial powers in the region, that a similar fate could await them. The Haitian people were proudly the first to cast off the oppressive shackles of slavery and form their own free country. The new constitution welcomed any oppressed people of color or any other segregated people to become citizens of the country. Haiti was a source of inspiration to Simón Bolívar. He sought refuge, consul and assistance in Haiti. President Pétion provided him with both men and money to go on to fight for the liberation of Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.Monument in Cap Haitian commemorating the heroes of Haitian Independence

In celebration of their newfound freedom, the Haitians made a soup of puréed pumpkin, meat, cabbage, potatoes, turnips, carrots and leeks. This dish was made from ingredients which had been denied to them as slaves. The ubiquitous soupe joumou in Haiti has become a delicious symbol of freedom and unity. It is traditional to start the New Year in memory of the sacrifices and success of the forefathers of Freedom.

Traditional Soupe Joumou symbolizes freedom in Haiti

I am proud to share this wonderful history of Haiti with you. The glorious fight for independence so valiantly fought and gained is particularly special given the conjecture of the time. On New Year’s Eve not only do we usher in the year with gusto and celebration, but we also commemorate the victory of Haitian Independence. This event marks not only a defining moment in the history for people of color, but also acknowledges Haiti as the Mother of the Americas.

May this year be a healthy, happy and successful one for you in all of your ventures. Wishing you peace and many blessings.

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