by Gami Ortiz
As we celebrate Independence Day here in the States, I’m reminded of the celebrations of Independence Day in Haiti. In Haiti, January 1st is not only the first of the year; it is also their Day of Independence. One of their traditions on this day is to eat soup joumou. The joumou is pretty close to a pumpkin, so you could say it’s close to a pumpkin soup, though the Haitian version has a little bit of a kick to it. We would attend a New Year's Eve church gathering from dark until dawn. We would bring in the new year with prayer and singing, but at the stroke of midnight, everyone would have a cup of this soup joumou. The reason for this tradition is that during the days of the French colony in Haiti, this was a delicacy that was reserved for the French masters. The slaves were expected to prepare it, but not permitted to eat of it. After the slaves fought for their independence, they took to eating this meal as a celebration of their independence as a nation and their freedom from slavery.
There’s a great spiritual parallel in this tradition. As Christians, we have been set free—the penalty and debt has been paid by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The curtain to the Holy of Holies in the temple was ripped from top to bottom, signifying that God’s presence was accessible to all. The Israelites of the Old Testament (and in Jesus’ day) were not permitted to enter the Holy of Holies and be in God’s presence. Only the high priest was permitted to enter and this only once a year, in order to make the sacrifice to atone for people’s sins (Hebrews 9:6-7).
6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.
Now, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are not separated from God’s presence and we are not required to go to a temple in order to worship Him. We have been given the freedom to worship God whenever and wherever we are. We have been given the freedom to have fellowship with our Creator, to approach His throne with confidence, to converse with Him, and to be in His presence. Yet how often we forfeit this freedom.
Haitians delight in their ability to now eat what was once forbidden to their ancestors. They take pride in the significance of the act and savor the taste of freedom. Because of this, you would not find a Haitian that does not eat soup joumou. How much more should we delight and savor the presence of God! He set us free that we would come to Him, delight in Him, and have our freedom. He IS our freedom! As we celebrate the nation’s freedom this week, may it point us to the greater freedom we enjoy as God’s children. Let’s seek His presence and worship Him, giving Him the praise and honor and glory that He alone deserves for who He is and what He has done.