The Story of the Red Drink: Juneteenth Edition - Honoring Freedom and Resilience
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is widely considered the most important celebration in African American culture. It commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, specifically celebrating when Union Major General Gordon Granger ordered the emancipation of slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. Despite being a key holiday for African Americans with celebrations stretching back to 1866, it was only officially recognized in the United States in 2021.
Juneteenth has become a day to not only celebrate emancipation from slavery, but African American culture as well. And what cultural celebration is complete without the food and drink from the culture? Among all the cultural foods associated with African Americans, the traditional beverage called "Red Drink" plays a particularly important and symbolic role in celebrations. Let’s take a closer look at what Red Drink is and why it emphasizes the resilience and triumph of the African American community.
What Is Red Drink?
Red Drink is usually a punch or tea that has its origins in the slave trade. Originally, it was made using hibiscus seeds that were brought by slaves from West Africa and the Caribbean. As the name implies, it is red colored, but there are a many variations that developed due to the African diaspora. Slave communities often created their own version of Red Drink using whatever local products they could find. For example, Caribbean-influenced Red Drink often will include spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as rum, in addition to the traditional hibiscus. However, some versions of Red Drink that developed in southern and Mid-Atlantic United States often incorporate berries, cherries, or strawberries. And when Kool-Aid was introduced, some communities adopted that as their version of Red Drink.
Why Red Drink?
Within the Juneteenth celebrations, Red Drink is an integral part of the cultural tapestry. Red Drink has come to symbolize not only the struggle slaves and descendants have experienced over centuries, but also the resilience of the African American community.
The vibrant red color represents the bloodshed and sacrifices made by enslaved individuals and their descendants in the fight for freedom. Red Drink also signifies joy, unity, and the ability to overcome adversity, as it is shared among family and friends during Juneteenth gatherings. Red Drink is a staple at these events and represents the shared experiences, conversations, and the passing down of ancestral stories and traditions from one generation to the next.
Juneteenth and Red Drink not only commemorate the past, but they also provide a space for community building and cultural pride. The celebrations serve as a time for African Americans to connect with their heritage, foster unity, and reinforce a collective identity.
Red Drink is therefore an essential component in preserving and promoting African American culture and history. By raising a glass of Red Drink to celebrate Juneteenth, today’s African Americans ensure that the legacy of resilience and freedom is never forgotten.
Here at Cured Leaves Tea, we work to do our part to pass along these great traditions. Start your own tradition and brew up your own Red Drink using our White Hibiscus Passion tea.