By Francoise Leon, Child Advocate

It’s a pleasure to share with you my favorite Haitian Holiday, which takes place on January 1st: Independence Day.  This is a day of celebration for all Haitians; it celebrates the history of our independence.

In Haiti we begin preparing for this day in the middle of December.  Everyone cleans their house and buys something new to wear on Independence Day.  We make sure everything is clean, such as our clothes,  dishes etc.  We always do our best to set this day apart because it’s incredibly meaningful. According to some Haitians, if this day is bad, the rest of the year will be bad as well.  There’s no real explanation behind this idea; it’s simply part of our culture.

Christians start this day with a special prayer, thanking God for the past year and offering him the present one.  Even though someone may not go to church on a regular basis, they won’t let this day pass them by without going to church.  Catholic Christians attend a ceremony, and all members of the government are present at the church as well.  After the religious ceremony, a speech is given about the history of Haitian independence, and everybody says best wishes to each other. It is a truly special moment.

Later on, families eat a traditional soup together with a lot of love and peace, and neighbors share food and gifts. Each family gives cakes, liquor, money, and many other gifts to their friends. Children even have permission to go out, visit friends, godmothers and godfathers, etc.  This is an occasion for the Haitian people to show love for one another, as well as remind us of the opportunity we have to keep this unity alive.