The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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“A Day of Duality”: Celebrating Haitian Independence Day

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VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

For me, January 1 is a day of pumpkin soup. While this may seem like an uncommon way to begin the New Year, it is actually how most Haitian individuals celebrate. On January 1 of 1804, Haiti gained its independence and became a free republic after a revolution that spanned around 13 years, making Haiti the first black republic in the world. 

So where does the soup fit into this? During French colonial rule of Haiti, enslaved peoples had to grow and cultivate squash, a crop that was abundant in Haiti. This squash was then used to make a soup, called soup joumou, that was to be eaten solely by the French. By forbidding the Haitians to imbibe and enjoy the soup joumou, the French reinforced the oppressive hierarchies that the Haitians were subjected to during the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Being able to celebrate Haitian Independence Day with my family and drink soup joumou, a dish that my ancestors were prohibited from having, is a fortifying experience. Different families have different iterations of the soup, depending on what part of Haiti they are from or what their personal preferences are (my family likes pumpkin). However, I believe that the purpose and intent behind the tradition remains the same, regardless of the soup you use to commemorate it with.

Haitian Independence Day is also a day of acknowledgment. Acknowledging the revolutionaries, like Toussaint Louverture, who made Haiti’s independence possible, acknowledging Haiti’s rich and complex history, and acknowledging my own Haitian heritage. Living in the United States my whole life and being constantly surrounded by American culture has created distance between me and my Haitian ancestry, especially since the story of Haiti and stories of Haitians are rarely depicted in film and the media. I take immense comfort in knowing that there will always be at least one day a year, every year, where my culture is something that I can spend the whole day celebrating. 

Even though I spend a great deal of January 1 celebrating Haitian Independence Day, I still partake in traditional New Year’s traditions, making it a day of duality. To some degree, the  mixture of traditions I partake in on January 1, some American, like watching the ball drop, and some Haitian, like drinking soup joumou, represents my experiences as a Haitian-American. I identify with both American and Haitian culture; I appreciate American English and Haitian Creole, I associate red, white, and blue with both Haiti and the U.S, and on New Year’s Day I imbibe in both apple cider and soup joumou.

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About the Contributor
Brianna Sylvain, Arts Editor
After joining the Polygon in sixth grade Brianna Sylvain is excited to step into her new role as one of the Arts Editors of the Polygon. Brianna has been Middle School Editor for the last two years and during that time has written about food changes at Poly, new staff, and the Middle School’s sneaker preferences. When she isn’t writing away or going to Polygon meetings, Brianna also swims competitively, plays with Poly’s string ensemble, and dances. Outside of school, you can find Brianna listening to music or a  podcast, watching Suits, or spending time with family. 

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