The Flavor of Haitian Christmas: Staying Close to Local Traditions
NPH Haiti makes a special effort to help children keep in touch with French Creole holiday customs.
December 12, 2019 - Haiti
Haitians like to celebrate Christmas in style—by dipping into their French Creole heritage and sharing a meal with family using traditional ingredients found on the island.
It is Haitian custom for families to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, where they sing carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus. Families then return to their homes for the reveillon, consisting of a traditional Christmas meal, parties, and rejoicing.
Children celebrate by placing polished shoes filled with straw under the Christmas tree for Père Noël (Santa Claus in French), who exchanges the straw for presents. Christmas Day is spent feasting and visiting friends and family, while small children play with their new toys brought by Père Noël.
For Christmas, the meals served at the FWAL home at Kay St. Louis and St. Helene are Diri Djon Djon Cole Ak Poi Congo or rice with pigeon peas and mushrooms, Poul Fri An Sòs or fried chicken in sauce, and Salad Wous or Russian salad. For the beverage, children are served orange juice or lemonade.
The ingredients for Diri Djon Djon Cole Ak Poi Congo are white rice, dried black mushrooms, and pigeon peas. Salad Wous is a mixture of root vegetables: potatoes, beets and carrots. Poul Fri An Sòs is made up of chicken drumsticks, sweet bell peppers, and tomato paste.
Recipe for Diri Djon Djon Cole Ak Poi Congo
2 cups white rice
1 cup pigeon peas
1 cup dried black mushrooms
1 onion or leek, finely chopped
1 sweet green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch parsley
3 sprigs thyme
In a medium pot cook peas, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in four cups of water for two hours or until peas are tender. Drain the peas but save the water for cooking the rice. Set water and peas aside. Clean the mushrooms, removing any dirt. Boil mushrooms in a small pot for 10 minutes or until water turns black. Drain the mushrooms but save the water for cooking the rice. Set water and mushrooms aside. In a large pot, add oil and sauté onion and green pepper. Add peas and salt and pepper to taste. Add half the water from the peas and all the water from the mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Add rice and thyme. Bring mixture to full boil. Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Remove thyme and serve.
Recipe for Poul Fri An Sòs
8 medium-size fryer chicken drumsticks
1 large onion, sliced in rounds or crescents for cooking and garnish
1 leek, mashed
1 large pepper, minced (mild or hot depending on your taste)
several cloves garlic, smashed or minced
3/4 cup tomato paste
pinch brown sugar
generous pinch salt or ground chicken bouillon cube
1 cup lime juice, lemon juice, or sour (green) orange juice
2/3 cup oil
3 tablespoons yellow or brown mustard
2 tablespoons vinaigrette salad dressing
2 cups water
In a bowl combine salt, pepper, mustard, vinaigrette, garlic, leek, and two tablespoons lime juice. Combine mixture well to create a marinade. Cover and set aside. Rinse chicken well with remaining lime juice and pat dry. Rub each piece of chicken with the marinade. Heat oil in a heavy cast iron pan and fry chicken. Be sure to turn chicken so that it browns evenly on all sides. When chicken is nearly browned, add sliced onion and minced pepper. Stir well. Fully brown chicken. Drain excess oil. Leave chicken in pan and add tomato paste and two cups of water. Stir frequently to lift browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Simmer until sauce thickens. Transfer cooked chicken to a platter and garnish with sliced raw onion. (Tomato sauce can be substituted for tomato paste. Use one cup tomato sauce and ½ cup water.) This dish goes well with diri blan or plain white rice. The sauce at the bottom of the pan can be poured on top of the rice.
Recipe for Salad Wous
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1 small beet
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sweet peas
1/2 onion, minced
1/3 cup red or green bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Boil potatoes and carrot in water with one teaspoon salt for 10 minutes or until tender. Boil beet separately in water with one teaspoon salt until tender, then peel and mince. Boil eggs separately in water with 1/4 teaspoon salt until hard, then remove shells and mince. In a bowl, combine potatoes, beets, carrots, onion, bell pepper, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add black pepper to taste.
Total cost of the dinner for a family of six to eight people US$33.08
Due to the high levels of poverty in Haiti, where according to The World Bank more than six million of the 11.25 million population lives on less than US$2.41 a day, not many families can enjoy the luxury of a Christmas meal.