Juneteenth Celebration: How To Celebrate June 19th
The search term “Juneteenth” is seeing a big spike this year in google. Considering all that’s been going on with racial equality, it’s no wonder more folks are looking into the Juneteenth celebration and how to honor it. To be transparent, this current chaos has sparked my own curiosity and encouraged me to dig deeper into this historical holiday.
As a black food blogger, who celebrates every holiday under the sun, my family and I have never really celebrated Juneteenth. Sure we acknowledge it by saying “Happy Juneteeth!”, but sadly that’s about it.
Yesterday my son asked me, “Mommy, what is Juneteenth?”. We’ve discussed this in our past homeschooling lessons but clearly not enough to leave an impression on him. We’ve never included crafts, food, decorations, and a celebration, as it should be.
That has changed!
My family has embraced many new holidays over the years, and this year, Juneteenth will be added to the lineup. The Juneteenth celebration has a history of rising and falling in popularity over the years. My household is taking responsibility to forever honor this celebration and pass it down to generations, just like our other traditions.
What is Juneteenth? (Juneteenth Celebration)
In a nutshell, Juneteenth is a celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States (for most). Two and 1/2 years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Texas slaveowners failed to tell their slaves that they were free. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers entered Galveston, Texas, to enforce the new order. General Order Number 3 was read to the slaves which states:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
Can you imagine what that must have felt like? And to know that other slaves had been freed two years earlier!!??! You can read all about Juneteeth, and its history here.
Old-Fashioned Forgotten Tea Cakes are popular on Juneteenth! Here’s the recipe!
How to celebrate Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a time of joy, reflection, family, and education. Other names for this day include Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, and Cel-liberation Day. Many people have family cookouts, attend prayer services, and educational events. Parades, pageants, and outdoor activities are held to honor African-American history.
What are the colors for Juneteenth?
The official colors for Juneteenth are red, white, and blue like the Juneteenth flag created by activist Ben Haith. The holiday is also celebrated in the pan-African colors red, yellow, green, and black. For my family, the boys and I will be decorating with star balloons and making handmade gratitude paper chains in red, white, and blue. We will be reading “A Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper, making homemade strawberry soda and of course lots of food!
Strawberry Soda and Juneteenth
Red drinks are popular for Juneteenth celebrations especially strawberry soda. Strawberry soda was among the first drinks that freed slaves celebrated with. This drink was considered a luxury and the slaves did not have access to it. Once the slaves were freed they celebrated by drinking lots of red soda!
Foods Served on Juneteenth
(Juneteenth Celebration Foods)
Red sodas, watermelon, and other red foods are popular on Juneteenth. The red color symbolizes the struggle, perseverance, and resilience of the African slaves. BBQ and traditional soul food dishes like fried chicken, red velvet cake, macaroni and cheese, collard greens are also served on Juneteenth.
Why is soul food often served on Juneteenth? It celebrates the massive (yet often overlooked) contribution that the African slaves had on Southern cooking as we know it today! Learn more about that here: All About Southern Cooking.
I’ve created a delicious Juneteenth Soul Food Menu for ya! Click to snag the recipes!
It’s never too late to learn about Juneteenth and start celebrating and honoring this happy day! Start by making this delicious Southern Strawberry Ice Tea and enjoy it while planning your festivities!!
Get the Recipe: Homemade Strawberry Soda (No machine needed)
- 1 lb. strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and diced
- 1½ cups granulated sugar, (can use less if desired)
- 1½ cups water
- 2-3 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
- Club Soda, chilled (or lemon-lime soda), *see note*
- Place the strawberries, water, and sugar in a large saucepan. Stir.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- When strawberries are soft, mash them with a potato masher.
- Let strawberries continue to simmer gently until the juices begin to reduce, thicken and become syrupy. (reduce heat if needed)
- Strain mixture through a mesh strainer, using a rubber spatula to press out the excess syrup. Discard the pulp. (You should have about 1 ¼ cups of syrup.)
- Stir in lemon juice if using. Let syrup mixture cool and then place in the refrigerator until chilled.
- To make a glass of soda, pour 8 oz of cold club soda into a cup. Stir in the chilled strawberry syrup by the tablespoon, tasting until you've reached your desired sweetness.