Soup Joumou for Independence Day in Haiti

By: Casey Zachary

Haitian Soup Joumou is more than just soup. This is their independence day soup, this is what Haitians drink all day on New Year’s day, January 1st, the day they celebrate their independence day. Haitian Pumpkin soup/soup joumou is tradition.

The Haitian revolution began in 1791 and ended January 1, 1804, when Jean Jacques Dessalines declared Haitian Independence. This signaled the first independent nation in Latin American led by displaced Africans and remains the only nation established by a successful slave rebellion.

During colonial times, by law, only the French were allowed to eat soup. They had a tradition of eating soup on New Year’s Day, while the lower class slaves were prohibited. For this reason, when Haiti did declare its independence on New Year’s Day, this tradition developed as a means by which Haitians could demonstrate, in a small way, that everyone is equal.

One indelible memory I have as a child growing up in Haiti was New Year’s Day, around 1996 or so. Our family attended a service at a local church where we lived in Haiti. I remember there being a portion of the service, as we sang songs of worship, where individuals would come and place various quantities of food at the front of the church. The idea was that the church did not anyone in the community to begin the New Year with nothing. I remember shaking my head in disbelief, knowing that many of those going forward and donating goods were giving their equivalent of two mites. Those who had next to nothing themselves, were giving sacrificially.

I suppose that sums up many of the Haitians I know. They are strong. They are kind. They are generous.

Haitians are a lot like you and me. I am humbled to think how my New Year’s resolutions differ from those of many of my Haitian friends. They would likely think me silly if I share with them. However, both of us want to hope when the New Year comes. We both want to put the bad behind us and enjoy a fresh start. We both are eager for our lives to change and goodness to come our way.

And both of us can eat soup on this day, because we are all equal.


Haitian Recipes: Soup Joumou – Haitian Pumpkin Soup Recipe

  • 1 lb corned beef or beef stew meat (you can use chicken or goat as well)
  • water
  • 1 1/2 lbs pumpkin, peeled & diced
  • 2 turnips, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup rice, washed (uncooked, not instant)
  • salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-4 teaspoons butter


In a saucepan, cover beef generously with water and boil over medium low heat, partially covered for 1 hour.
Drain and chop beef into bite-sized pieces.
In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil; add pumpkin, turnips, beef, onions, parsley, thyme, and 2 cloves garlic.
Simmer until pumpkin is tender (15 minutes).
Discard parsley and thyme.
Transfer pumpkin to food processor with 1/4 cup stock and puree.
Return to saucepan and heat through.
Add milk, nutmeg, butter, and rice; cook until rice is tender (15-20 minutes).
Season with salt and pepper, and mix in remaining garlic.
Serve hot with a little butter in each bowl.

Serving Size: 4


  1. Krista says

    Happy Belated New Year and Happy Birthday, Licia!

  2. Kristie says

    This is a beautifully-written post–yes, as equals, we eat Soup Joumou along with Haitian friends ’round the globe this day.

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