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  • Writer's pictureMonika Byrd McGhee

Honoring Juneteenth Food Traditions

In my childhood hometown (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), Juneteenth has been celebrated annually since 1983. However, before this year, I had very little understanding of the holiday's origins, history, and traditions, so I set out to educate myself and others. My research uncovered information that I'd never known—for example, details about the holiday's rich food traditions and the connection to the color red.

Red foods are customary for the holiday menu and symbolize the struggle, perseverance, resilience, and the bloodshed of our ancestors during slavery. In Yoruba and Congo cultures, red also embodies spiritual power and transformation.

Dishes representing prosperity are corn, cornbread, collard greens, cabbage, black-eyed peas, potatoes, and yams.

Instantly, I knew that we should transform our family celebration this year, starting with the menu. I've included the recipes at the end of this blog post.

Our Juneteenth Menu
Freed slaves celebrated their emancipation by drinking strawberry soda, a luxury they hadn't been able to enjoy as slaves. So, it has since become a tradition to drink red soda on Juneteenth.

Barbecued meats such as ribs, hot links, chicken, and sausage are prominently featured at the center of the holiday table.

With so many meaningful food options, it was difficult to select which items would make the final cut. However, one thing is abundantly clear, Juneteenth is more than just a day, it's a lifestyle.

If this post left you wanting to know more about how African-American cuisine transformed America, check out Netflix's documentary: High on the Hog. Episode 4 titled "Freedom" is a tremendous nod to Juneteenth.

How are you celebrating and building new Juneteenth traditions with your family this year?

Leave us a comment below to share or let us know how you liked the recipes.


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