Why You Should Eat 'Prosperity Meals' To Celebrate Juneteenth

In 2021, Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday by President Biden. Although this is technically the newest American holiday, it's strongly tied to the past and "marks a day on June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas were notified by Union soldiers that they were free" (via Serious Eats). The holiday is now celebrated across the U.S., and the ways of celebrating it are different from one region to another, although all these festivities have a few things in common — street fairs, parades, and spectacular, glorious food such as barbecue, among many others.

We've already learned that the Lone Star state was among one of the last to abolish slavery, and Juneteenth is known as "the celebration of the emancipation of slaves" (per The Soul Food Pot), so it's no wonder that the food connected with this holiday promotes and protects the cuisine of African-American people. Among many Juneteenth dishes, there are prosperity meals, and you should try at least some of them to properly celebrate this holiday.

Prosperity meals include collard greens, corn, and black-eyed peas

Michael Twitty, a culinary historian and writer, told Oprah Daily that the color red is essential for the food of Juneteenth. And why did red foods become a Juneteenth tradition? It's because red-colored food was exciting and rarely eaten, and the enslaved Africans who came to Texas were often of the Yoruba and Kongo cultures that are associated with red color as well. So on Juneteenth, expect to see lots of food such as red velvet cake, hibiscus tea, watermelon, or red beans and rice. However, there's one other important food that gets its red color from sauces, marinades, and smoke. Yes, it's barbecued meat in all forms — from pork ribs and shoulders to chicken and steaks. But what are those prosperity meals that we keep hearing about? 

Michiel Perry, a lifestyle expert, also talked with Oprah Daily and said that prosperity meals eaten on Juneteenth are typically served as barbecue accompaniments and include corn and sweet potatoes, which stand for gold; collard greens or other leafy greens that symbolize good fortune; and black-eyed peas and pork, a symbol of wealth. Perry shares, "It's all about celebrating good luck and wishing for the best."

If you're looking for a way to celebrate this Juneteenth, trying your hand at some of these dishes is a great start. While you're munching, why not take some time to think or talk about important topics such as African-American culture and history — it's an excellent opportunity to "promote equality, civil rights, and African-American advancement" (per CNN).