Juneteenth Traditions, Food & Recipes

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The Juneteenth holiday and Juneteenth traditions are celebrated on June 19th in the United States.

But you may be still wondering…

What is Juneteenth, how is it celebrated, and why does it matter?

Juneteenth commemorates June 19th, 1865. The day when the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, with good news. 

Juneteenth Traditions, Food & Recipes

The news was that the American Civil War had ended, and enslaved African Americans were free because President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Juneteenth began as a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the past. Juneteenth traditions continue today as a day to celebrate African Americans’ culture, heritage, contributions, and progress in the United States.

Why is it called Juneteenth Holiday?

The word is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth.” So June 19th, now a holiday, is the date the news of emancipation finally made its way to Galveston, TX.

What is the importance of Juneteenth?

The Juneteenth holiday is a jubilee day to celebrate African American freedom, independence, and heritage.

Even though the United States became a free country 87 years earlier on July 4th, 1776. Enslaved Black people weren’t freed on the 4th of July

So you can understand why many in the Black community have a tainted view of America’s 4th of July Independence Day.

Juneteenth is a day of remembrance, a celebration of Black people’s freedom day, and a time to reflect on the vital role African Americans played in America’s journey to freedom and equality. 

Juneteenth traditions remind us of our ancestors’ trials and tribulations before gaining equality and pride. 

Juneteenth is the time to remember African American history, celebrate cultural accomplishments, and look forward to what we can achieve as a community.

Juneteenth Traditions: Emancipation Park, Houston TX
Emancipation Park picture from VisitHoustonTexas.com

Why is Emancipation Park important to Juneteenth?

According to Visit Houston Texas, Emancipation Park is a 10-acre public park purchased by four formerly enslaved people in 1872 and served as a location to celebrate Juneteenth. 

Until the 1950s, it was the only public park and swimming pool in Houston open to African Americans.

The new Emancipation Park is designed as an interwoven tapestry of buildings and landscapes celebrating the park’s rich African American history. In addition, guests can enjoy revitalized landscapes and playgrounds in this memorialized space.

How is Juneteenth similar to Independence Day?

Juneteenth is an African American holiday celebrating the ending of slavery. However, it’s not the same as the 4th of July Independence Day, even with its patriotic aspects and celebration of freedom. 

Juneteenth independence day is a more spiritual display of patriotism that focuses on African-Americans rather than the nation.

What are the official colors of Juneteenth?

What are the official colors for Juneteenth?

The Juneteenth flag features three colors: red, white, and blue. It symbolizes the same colors found in the U.S. flag. 

It shows that formerly enslaved people, and always have been, Americans.

The Best Southern Soul Food Memorial Day Recipes
The Best Southern Soul Food Memorial Day Recipes
Favorite soul food Memorial Day recipes from BBQ sauce, Black Southern potato salad, soul food burgers, Southern fried chicken, & sweet tea!
Check out this recipe!

What does the zigzag shape around the star on the Juneteenth flag mean?

The bursting zigzag around the star represents a nova, a term that astronomers have adopted to refer to non-existent new stars that suddenly appear. 

This image symbolizes the emergence of the African American people, who were once forcibly kept from owning the land they inhabited. 

A representation of freedom, a new beginning, and a new horizon for African Americans in the United States.

Juneteenth Traditions: What is Juneteenth, and why is it celebrated?

Why are Juneteenth colors also red, black, and green?

The official Juneteenth flag colors are red, white, and blue to represent that enslaved Africans and their descendants are Americans. 

Many in the Black community have adopted the Pan-African flag colors red, black, and green (RBG).

What should you wear to Juneteenth?

The red, black, and green colors worn at Juneteenth events symbolize the blood, soil, and prosperity of all African people and descendants.

What type of music is played on Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. A time to reflect and celebrate. You’ll likely hear celebratory and spiritual music at a Black person’s Juneteenth celebration.

Iconic artists like Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Billie Holiday. These artists created spiritual songs that were being sung in church congregations. But they were also activists for Black folks and equal rights, frequently recording songs about freedom and revolution.

Do you wish someone a happy Juneteenth?

At the heart of Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the journey and freedom of Black people in the U.S., and an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the many contributions that Black people have made to American culture. 

So, while you can wish someone a Happy Juneteenth emancipation day. Even better, you can use the following tips for how to celebrate and acknowledge Juneteenth, including on social media.

How do you organize a Juneteenth celebration?

How do you celebrate Juneteenth?

  1. What are some traditions for Juneteenth? And how do you organize a Juneteenth celebration? Gather family and friends with a Juneteenth menu and spread of foods. While you’re together, discuss the importance of Juneteenth in Black History.
  2. What are ways people celebrate Juneteenth? Share the contributions of Black people to American culture (i.e., artists, creators, athletes, products, businesses).
  3. How do you celebrate Juneteenth respectfully? If you’re not a Black American, it’s crucial not to use Juneteenth as an opportunity for self-promotion or appropriation of Black culture.
Juneteenth Food History, Facts & Black Folks Recipes
Juneteenth Food History, Facts & Black Folks Recipes
Juneteenth food history, traditions, drinks & desserts for your African American celebration. Recipes inspired by Netflix’s High On The Hog.
Check out this recipe!

Juneteenth traditions, food & recipes: tomato watermelon salad 

Watermelon is food stereotypically thrown on the doorsteps of Black people as a way to identify us. 

But, of course, you know, African Americans didn’t invent watermelon! 

Just like our stereotypical liking of fried chicken (which we also didn’t invent, BTW).

However, we do have a hand in creating delicious Southern watermelon recipes. (Similar to how we’ve perfected seasoning Southern fried chicken!)

So don’t forget to add tangy and sweet tomato watermelon salad to your Juneteenth traditions menu!

Juneteenth Red Foods Watermelon Salad

Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad recipe

Summertime is all about refreshing flavors, including juicy watermelon and tangy tomatoes. 

This recipe for tomato watermelon salad with feta cheese, pickled onions, pickled peppers, and zesty cilantro is a classy Southern dish, perfect for any occasion! 

Kitchen equipment for Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad

Shop my kitchenware HERE!

Ingredients for the tomato watermelon salad 

  • 1 pound of seedless watermelon, chopped into approx. 1″ size bites (1 mini watermelon works well)
  • 6 oz. of grape tomatoes halved – if in season, choose the gourmet medley of colors (red, yellow & purple variety pack)
  • ½ a cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ a cup of chopped cilantro

Ingredients for quick pickled onions and pickled peppers

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar 
  • 5 sweet yellow peppers, deveined, seeded, and sliced lengthwise 
  • ¼ cup of red onion, sliced into strips
Tomato Watermelon Salad Pickled Peppers

Instructions: Instant Pot quick pickled red onions and sweet pickled peppers 

  1. Pour the red wine vinegar into the Instant Pot stainless steel inner pot.
  2. Add the sliced yellow peppers and red onion to the pot.
  3. Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is in the sealing position – up) and pressure cook on high for 4 minutes.
  4. When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural release of pressure for at least 4 minutes.
  5. To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  6. Use a colander to drain the vinegar from the pickled vegetables.
  7. Set aside the pickled red onions and peppers.

Instructions for Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad 

  1. Add the chopped watermelon, sliced grape tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and chopped cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Add the pickled yellow peppers and red onions to the fruit mixture.
  3. Use a small rubber spatula to gently toss and mix the ingredients gently.
  4. Tomato watermelon salad can either be served at room temperature or chilled in the refrigerator for an hour.
  5. Serve Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad right away, and enjoy!

🎙Check out The Soul Food Pod conversation about tomato watermelon salad!

Juneteenth Traditions: Southern Soul Food Tomato Watermelon Salad Recipe

History of Juneteenth traditions and celebrations FAQs

How did the American civil rights movement affect Juneteenth celebrations?

Juneteenth traditions and celebrations in the U.S. died out in the 1960s, eclipsed by the growing influence of The Civil Rights Movement. 

In 1968, however, Juneteenth became important again as a day of empowerment to strengthen the Black community on its terms during the Poor People’s Campaign initiated by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Later, state governments began offering official Juneteenth celebrations, which attracted African Americans from various regions known for their independent spirit and penchant for celebration. 

In 1980, Texas officially became the first state to mark its return with a Juneteenth Texas state celebration.

Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History & Culture - NMAAHC Contemplative Court
Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History & Culture Contemplative Court

Is Juneteenth a real holiday?

Now a federal holiday, Juneteenth is observed on June 19th. Thanks to the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Opal Lee, who launched her Opal’s Walk 2 DC initiative in 2016. 

Lee wanted to walk more than 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to the nation’s capital to bring awareness to Juneteenth.

It took until 2021, when President Biden signed a bill for a Juneteenth national independence day. The same year the Black community received justice for George Floyd.

94-year-old Opal Lee was there to witness the President’s signing of the bill for Juneteenth.

Juneteenth Traditions Red Food & Drink

What is the official drink of Juneteenth?

What drink is synonymous with Juneteenth? The official drink of Juneteenth is red hibiscus sweet tea

Hibiscus drink has West African roots, so it’s the drink at the heart of the Juneteenth traditions and celebrations.

Juneteenth Southern Hibiscus Sweet Tea
Juneteenth Red Drink Southern Hibiscus Sweet Tea
What is the official drink of Juneteenth?
Southern hibiscus sweet tea. It's a delicious red drink, and hibiscus flowers are native to West Africa. So, hibiscus tea has been part of Black culture since the beginning!
Check out this recipe!

What does strawberry soda have to do with Juneteenth?

What is red soda water?

Soda water is carbonated water (seltzer). 

Red soda water is carbonated water flavored with either watermelon or strawberry as part of a Juneteenth feast! A beverage commonly served as part of Juneteenth cookout traditions

Juneteenth Traditions Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is the official dessert of Juneteenth.

Its popularity was boosted during the Juneteenth red food celebrations due to its red color. 

This cake has traditionally been served as soul food on holidays such as ChristmasEasterValentine’s Day, and even Memorial Day. So it doesn’t seem out of place to offer it on Juneteenth.

Did Black people create red velvet cake?

Red velvet cake is considered soul food of the South! 

Like most Southern cuisine that originated in the 1800s, red velvet cake is believed to also be of African-American origin. 

Why is red food eaten on Juneteenth?

While Juneteenth has grown to include celebrating African-American culture and heritage, Juneteenth red food and drinks have always been a part of the jubilee day festivities. 

How red food and drink joined the Juneteenth feast

Juneteenth red foods are not only delicious, but they are also symbolic. Red is one of the primary colors used by African Americans to celebrate Black History

Juneteenth Red Food & Drink Recipes

What does the red food and drink symbolize for Juneteenth?

Juneteenth traditions include a menu of red foods to honor the bloodshed of our ancestors during their journey toward freedom and equality.

So when you celebrate Juneteenth, include red foods for an official Juneteenth tradition. 

What are 10 Juneteenth traditions red foods 

Some Juneteenth traditional red foods include: 

  1. Red beans and rice
  2. Red soda or punch
  3. Tomato and watermelon salad
  4. Red cabbage slaw
  5. Sweet hibiscus tea
  6. Cranberry sauce cornbread
  7. Homemade watermelon ice cream
  8. Rhubarb strawberry pie
  9. Red velvet cake
  10. Juneteenth BBQ foods: chicken, ribs, sausage, beef brisket
The Best Juneteenth Red Foods & Drinks
The Best Juneteenth Red Foods & Drinks
Juneteenth red foods and drinks are delicious & symbolic. Red is one of the primary colors used to celebrate Juneteenth Black History
Check out this recipe!

What are traditional Juneteenth foods?

So what do people eat and drink on Juneteenth?

Here’s a short list of traditional Black folks’ food you can make for Juneteenth:

Black Folks Southern Baked Mac And Cheese
Black Folks Soul Food Baked Macaroni And Cheese
Soul food baked mac and cheese is made with a rich & creamy homemade cheese sauce & yummy Southern spices. Southern comfort food the Black folks way!
Check out this recipe!
Black Folks Soul Food Collard Greens Recipe
Black Folks Soul Food Collard Greens Recipe
What is a soul food collard greens recipe?
A Black folks collard greens recipe is the quintessential dish of any Southern soul food dinner.
Check out this recipe!
Black Folks Soul Food Southern Coleslaw Recipe
Black Folks Soul Food Southern Coleslaw Recipe
How do Black people make coleslaw?
With lots of flavor!
Black folks’ soul food Southern coleslaw is a classic recipe perfect for pairing with smokey BBQ meats and a great accompaniment with a pulled pork sandwich. 
Check out this recipe!
Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe
Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe
What are Black folks tea cakes?
An African American Southern dessert, Black folks tea cake is a sweet little biscuit. Light, airy, and sometimes compared to soda bread or pound cake. Tea cakes are a traditional African American treat that dates back to the 1600s.
Check out this recipe!
Southern Soul Food Pig Pickin Cake
Southern Soul Food Pig Pickin Cake
What is a Southern soul food pig pickin cake? 
It's a homemade, moist yellow cake with whipped pineapple frosting, vanilla pudding & sweet mandarin oranges baked in. Pig pikckin is a one-of-a-kind cake as unique as its name and the official dessert of Southern pig roasts and pig pickins!
Check out this recipe!

How do you celebrate Juneteenth where you live?

If you’re celebrating Juneteenth in the city, remember these iconic soul food restaurants where you can eat!

  • St Louis, MO – Sweetie Pie’s restaurant
  • Los Angeles, CA – Roscoe’s Chicken And Waffles
  • Harlem, New York – Sylvia’s
The Best Juneteenth Menu Ideas & Recipes
The Best Juneteenth Menu Ideas & Recipes
Soul food favorite Juneteenth menu ideas from the main dish to the sides & even dessert. Red food and drink & what food to serve on Juneteenth
Check out this recipe!

Or, if you’re celebrating Juneteenth in your hometown, make sure to include an iconic African American recipe based on where you live!

Here’s a starting list:

Southern Soul Food Watermelon Tomato Salad For Juneteenth

What do you think of these Juneteenth traditions and recipes?

Have you celebrated with Juneteenth food and traditions?

Comment below and lemme know.

Then subscribe HERE for all the soul food!

The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
What is soul food? Soul food recipes are African-American recipes full of flavor! A legacy of Southern cooking the Black way. Check out this collection of the best soul food recipes!
Check out this recipe!

Like this post? Pin the below image to your Pinterest “Soul Food Recipes” board!

Juneteenth Traditions, Red Food & Recipes
Tomato Watermelon Salad Recipe

Juneteenth Traditions, Food & Recipes | Tomato Watermelon Salad

Watermelon is food stereotypically thrown on the doorsteps of Black people as a way to identify us. 
But, of course, African Americans didn't invent watermelon! However, we do have a hand in creating delicious Southern watermelon recipes.
So don't forget to add tangy and sweet tomato watermelon salad to your Juneteenth traditions menu.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 minutes
Instant Pot Natural Pressure Release Time: 4 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Instant Pot recipe, Southern Food
Servings: 4
Calories: 565kcal

Equipment

  • Instant Pot pressure cooker (for the pickled red onions & sweet pickled peppers)

Ingredients

Ingredients for the Juneteenth tomato salad

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon chopped into approx. 1″ size bites (1 mini watermelon works well)
  • 6 oz grape tomatoes halved – if in season, choose the gourmet medley of colors (red, yellow & purple variety pack)
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
  • ¼ cup cilantro fresh & chopped

Ingredients for quick pickled onions & pickled peppers

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 5 sweet yellow peppers deveined, seeded, and sliced lengthwise
  • ¼ cup red onion sliced into strips

Instructions

Instructions for Instant Pot quick pickled red onions & sweet pickled peppers

  • Pour the red wine vinegar into the Instant Pot stainless steel inner pot.
  • Add the sliced yellow peppers and red onion to the pot.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is in the sealing position – up) and pressure cook on high for 4 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural release of pressure for at least 4 minutes.
  • To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  • Use a colander to drain the vinegar from the pickled vegetables.
  • Set aside the pickled red onions and peppers.

Instructions for Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad

  • Add the chopped watermelon, sliced grape tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and chopped cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Add the pickled yellow peppers and red onions to the fruit mixture.
  • Use a small rubber spatula to gently toss and mix the ingredients gently.
  • Tomato watermelon salad can either be served at room temperature or chilled in the refrigerator for an hour.
  • Serve Juneteenth tomato watermelon salad right away, and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Tomato watermelon salad tasty ingredient swaps:
  • Goat cheese if you don’t have feta cheese.
  • Apple cider vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or a balsamic vinaigrette instead of red wine vinegar.
  • Olive oil instead of vinegar if you’re not pickling the onions and peppers. 
  • If you don’t have colorful tomatoes, add in a few colorful melon balls like honeydew or cantaloupe. 
  • A chopped shallot can be used in place of red onions. 
  • Pickled jalapeno peppers can be used to spice things up in place of sweet peppers.
  • Top with fresh herbs like mint leaves, basil leaves, dill, thyme, or oregano instead of cilantro. Or a salad topper like watercress.
Juneteenth Food - Southern Soul Food Tomato Watermelon Salad Recipe

Nutrition

Calories: 565kcal | Carbohydrates: 86g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 875mg | Potassium: 2345mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 5775IU | Vitamin C: 1157mg | Calcium: 503mg | Iron: 5mg
Save it so you can make it!Pin this recipe to remember it later.

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