Juneteenth Festivities and Food
A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.
Certain foods, such as strawberry soda-pop, became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing; in this way Juneteenth participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors, the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies. Hence, the barbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations.
Food was abundant because everyone prepared a special dish. Meats such as lamb, pork and beef, which were not available everyday, were brought on this special occasion. A true Juneteenth celebration left visitors well satisfied and with enough conversation to last until the next.
Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs and is often still taken seriously, particularly by direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition’s roots. During slavery there were laws on the books in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved. During the initial days of the emancipation celebrations, there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers and donning clothing taken from the plantations that belonged to their former ‘masters’.