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For Black Americans, Juneteenth is often a day to celebrate with family gatherings and festive meals. Though there are many types of foods people will prepare for these celebrations, some are more traditional and have symbolism in Black communities.

Red foods are the most prominent feature on Juneteenth menus. These include red beverages, red beans and rice, and red velvet cake.

The color red has deep historical significance. In Texas, the last state to recognize the Emancipation Proclamation, many of the Africans who were enslaved there came to this country through the Caribbean, where the color red holds importance. Red has countless philosophical and spiritual meanings to these homeland traditions. It often symbolized sacrifice, transition and power.

African cultural traditions include the steeping of seeds in water. When soaked in water, these seeds — the kola nut from the cola plant and hibiscus pod from the roselle flower — produce a red drink or tea. Having red drinks during Juneteenth honors our connection to our ancestors. These drinks include but are not limited to red Kool-Aid, red punch and red soda.

Smoked meats slathered in red sauce and barbecue sauce are also considered traditional red foods. Communities would come to common spaces to prepare foods, share barbecue pits and eat together. Ribs became a staple for Juneteenth due to the antebellum South, where enslaved people were made to eat scraps and low­-quality bits of leftover meats that white people would not eat. Ribs are the meatiest part of the animal and became symbolic of equity in the Black community.

The sides served on Juneteenth consist of foods that represent prosperity, such as corn, cornbread, collard greens, cabbage, black-eyed peas, yams and sweet potatoes. These foods celebrate good luck, wealth and good fortune. Additionally, enslaved people were able to harvest and store collard greens and sweet potatoes for the winter, giving these foods historical importance.