Diaspora

Haitian New Year celebrated at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart – My catholic standard

Members of the surrounding community of Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, D.C. gathered on the evening of Jan. 1 – the day Haiti broke from French colonial rule in 1804 – for a Mass to celebrate the anniversary of Haitian independence. 
The Mass was celebrated in both English and Creole. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who gave the homily in English, wished the crowd “bonne année,” or “happy new year” in Creole.
“How truly precious is the gift of human freedom, the freedom from oppression, freedom from poverty, freedom from terror, freedom from foreign domination,” Cardinal Gregory said. “The Haitian community throughout the world pauses on this day to praise and bless God for the freedom achieved by that island nation on Jan. 1, 1804 – 219 years ago.”
Cardinal Gregory went on to say how the day was also meant to celebrate freedom from sin, hatred, and violence that is promised through Jesus.
“Those freedoms are obviously still not yet completely realized, as many news reports throughout the world confirm repeatedly. However, our local Haitian community today that its national liberation and freedom was achieved on this day, and for that you must now remain justifiably proud and deeply grateful,” Cardinal Gregory said. 
During the Mass, folk dancers brought up offerings in baskets, wearing Karabela dresses that featured hand-painted scenes of the Haitain countryside. 
Marie Boursiquot, who works with Shrine of the Sacred Heart, was one of the women dancing down the aisle.
“Vegetables and fruits [in the baskets,] it’s kind of an offering that we share, it’s our culture, that we share with the priest,” Boursiquot said. 
Josephine Boursiquot, who sings with the choir, spoke on the importance the revolution has had on Haitian culture. 
“We, as Hatians, we fought a lot to have our independence,” she said. “Even the food that we eat (on Independence Day) we call it soup joumou. When we were slaves, they didn’t want us to eat it, it was so good. We’d cook it for the masters but we didn’t have it. After that, after we fight and we have our independence, and now this is a way to celebrate, because now we are free, we can eat it,” Boursiquot said. 
Father Luc Philogene, a concelebrant of the Mass, spoke with the Catholic Standard following the Mass. 
“It’s important to celebrate [Haitian independence] as a Mass because it is our Thanksgiving for us, for our ancestors who did a really good job to make Haiti the first Black nation. It is a time to remember that, for the new generation,” Father Philogene said. “It’s also a time to remember that when we are getting together, when we put everything together, when we put all our energy together, that we can do a lot of things. It’s a time of unity.”
In the new year, Father Philogene said he has a lot to look forward to, including forming a youth choir at the church.
A reception was held following the Mass, where attendees ate joumou and enjoyed a performance from the dancers.
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