red velvet cake

Red velvet cake is one of the red foods used to celebrate the holiday Juneteenth on June 19. (Amirali Mirhashemian via Unsplash)

Juneteenth is an annual holiday celebrating the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas the Civil War had ended and the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two years earlier.

To celebrate Juneteenth, Black communities across the country usually commemorate the day of freedom through parades, festivals, barbecues, prayer and fellowship.

COVID-19 has affected some Juneteenth events, but some events are still scheduled, such as the ICUC Healing Center Juneteenth Celebration and the Juneteenth Silent Protest at Ebenezer Baptist Church West.

If you're staying at home this Juneteenth, you can still celebrate “Freedom Day” through food, drink and virtual celebrations.

Food and Drink

Here are symbolic food and drinks to serve at your at-home or neighborhood Juneteenth celebration.

Red Food

Red food is traditionally served at Juneteenth celebrations because the color is a representation of the bloodshed and resilience of the enslaved.

Red velvet cake, watermelon, Texas Pete hot sauce, strawberry pie and hot links are several red foods commonly served at Juneteenth celebrations, according to the New York Times article "Hot Links and Red Drinks: The Rich Food Tradition of Juneteenth."

Hot links, usually made of ground beef and dyed red, are “a distinctive African-American contribution to barbecue,” Adrian Miller, a James Beard award-winning author and soul food expert, said in the NYT article.

In his Los Angeles Times article, “How a Texan showed L.A. the way to celebrate Juneteenth,” Miller said watermelons are a traditional Juneteenth desert.

Though parades may be canceled, barbecues are not off-limits to continue in the Juneteenth tradition. Barbecues are heralded as the cornerstones of Juneteenth celebrations. Through barbeques, “participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors—the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies,” according to, the national Juneteenth register.

Pork and chicken are menu staples for a Juneteenth feast. Other meats such as lamb and beef, which were not readily accessible for the enslaved community, were brought to this special occasion, according to

If you do not feel like cooking this Juneteenth, click this link for a list of Black-owned restaurants to support in Athens.

Red Drinks

As a symbolic representation of how hibiscus and kola nuts came to America through the transatlantic slave trade, red drinks like strawberry soda and hibiscus teas are staple Juneteenth drinks.

In his L.A. Times article, Miller said, “a red drink can be anything: a carbonated beverage, flavored tea or punch that has a cherry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry or tropical punch flavor.”

Miller said the red drink is argumentatively “soul food’s official drink.” He added that the red drink of choice for Juneteenth is Big Red Soda, which is manufactured in Waco, Texas.

Virtual Celebrations

Cooking is one way to celebrate Juneteenth, but other ways to celebrate “Freedom Day” at home include donating to foundations supporting Black communities, educating yourself through digital resources and discovering local Black musicians.


The Red & Black compiled a list of local and national Black organizations seeking donations.


  1. Follow this link to the calendar of live-streamed and virtual Juneteenth events provided by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. Included in the organization’s itinerary are a live-streamed cooking demonstration, virtual concert, virtual community dialogue featuring special guest Adrian Miller and more.
  2. In this pre-recorded video, founding director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture Lonnie Bunch III leads viewers on a tour through the museum’s “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition.

Other media

You can also celebrate the holiday by listening to music or podcasts, watching movies or reading books about the Black experience in America.