Why do Haitians eat squash soup on New Year’s Day?

Nathalie Fanfan explains the magic of Soup Joumou for her family and the Haitian community

Malden resident Nathalie Fanfan-Glyman (right), her husband Charles Glyman, and sons Hart and Harrison. Like most Haitians living throughout the world, Nathalie's family carries on the tradition of eating squash soup on January 1. Photo by HRMarsan Photography.

By Jack Drees

The New Year is celebrated by a series of traditions in the United States and around the world. For some, it’s a lively party on New Year’s Eve. For others, it’s the Times Square Ball Drop. For Massachusetts, it’s fireworks over the Boston Harbor.

Haitians celebrate the New Year by enjoying a special soup. It is one of the first dishes they eat in the calendar year, and a tradition that reminds them of the liberation they have achieved.

Haitian squash soup (Soup Joumou). Photo by Charles Glyman.

Haitians gained independence on January 1, 1804 after a 13-year revolution against France. Their independence arrived after the only successful slave revolt in history. Haiti became the second independent nation in the Americas and the first in Latin America.

Yearly, in honor of the country’s freedom, the nation’s people and those with Haitian roots enjoy Soup Joumou, or squash soup.

During France’s colonization of Haiti, Soup Joumou was often eaten by colonial masters and plantation owners. In many cases, this dish was prepared for these higher-class individuals by the slaves. While the masters and owners downed the soup, their slaves would frequently resort to scraps. When Haiti became independent, the former slaves now had more opportunities to enjoy a dish they were once deprived of enjoying.

When asked about this tradition, Malden resident Nathalie Fanfan-Glyman, owner of Nathalie Fanfan Fashion Stylist & Personal Shopper, shared the history of a tradition shared by the Haitian community. For families like the Fanfans and the Glymans, Soup Joumou stands the test of time as a staple of a community.

Q: What does squash soup have to do with Haitian Independence?

A: Soup Joumou is served in Haiti and Haitian households around the world on January 1, which is the anniversary of Haiti’s liberation Day from France in 1804. To Haitians like myself, Soup Joumou represents “Freedom.” We Haitians eat it every year in celebration of the world’s first and only successful slave revolution and becoming the first independent nation. There is magic in Soup Joumou for Haitians.

Q: Traditionally, are you with other people while eating squash soup?

A: Every year on Jan. 1, my family, my children, husband, cousins and friends gather at the table to enjoy Soup Joumou. We eat it all day and the coming weeks of January.

Q:  Is there a certain time of day that squash soup is traditionally enjoyed? Lunch? Dinner? As soon as the new year hits? 

A: We eat it all day at any time of day.

Q: Do you enjoy the taste of squash soup? How does it make you feel?

A: I love it. It tastes very good and I feel connected with my ancestors when I eat it. It reminds me of who I am and the strength of Haitian people.

Q:  Who makes your personal favorite squash soup?

A: My mother Chantal. She’s an amazing cook. The soup is perfect every year.

Q: Are there any other significant occasions over the year where squash soup is significant?

Yes. Personally I request it on the colder days/months.

Q:  Will you pass on the tradition? If so, how?

A: Yes, I will. My sons Harrison and Hart were introduced to Soup Joumou as early as one year old. They both enjoy eating it. Their grandfather, my father, along with my husband give them a short history lesson on why they eat the soup and what it represents. This year Harrison, now 5 years old, will help his grandmother Chantal make the soup. 

Editor’s Note:
Here’s a recipe for Haitian Squash Soup, submitted by Jethro St. Louis of Saugus, whose son attends the charter school in Malden.

Does your family traditionally eat squash soup for Haitian Independence Day?

Neighborhood View invites you to send your family photos (including soup) and/or recipes to neighborhoodviewmalden@gmail.com. We will share on UMA (Urban Media Arts) social media (or you can post directly in the UMA social media comments section.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply