Haitian Heritage Month

May is Haitian Heritage Month! Peruse our resource guide to learn about and celebrate the rich culture, history, and people from Haiti.

In pursuit of better opportunities, thousands left the island between the 1960s and 1980s, electing to move to countries like the United States, Panama, and Canada. However, the Haitian community remains proud of its roots and hopeful for Haiti's future. Through the Kreyòl language, food, and music, Haitian pride continues to pass down the generations and thrive in its people.

Haiti's present political and economic issues stem from it's difficult past. In spite of it, Haitians are resilient and proud. Throughout the struggles of their country, the people have persevered; creating and expanding their cultural beauty outwards to the world.

Traditional Clothing

The traditional dress for Haitian women is know as a karabela. The dress is made of blue cotton or linen with red lace to symbolize the colors of the Haitian flag. Orange, yellow, and green lace are also used to accent the dress. It is full-length, normally worn off the shoulders. Haitian women may also wear headwraps to match or coordinate with their karabela dress.

It became popular in the 18th century as everyday wear. Today, it's worn in celebrations and national holidays.

Modern interpretation of the Karabela dress

Where Egypt Meets Haiti (2016) 

Haitian men traditionally wear a shirt, called guayabera, and pants set. The shirt and pants usually match the colors and style of their wives or dance partners, if worn as part of a celebration. 


Two types are embedded in traditional Haitian culture:

Konpa is a Haitian style of music comprised of drums, vocals, horns, and electric guitar. 

Twoubadou is guitar-based style of music from the country.

To listen to music by Haitian artists, use the databases below:


Haitian cuisine derives from African, Creole, French, Spanish, and Taino gastronomy. By blending these cultural palettes together, Haitian food is full of warmth, spice, and flavor. The base of nearly all Haitian dishes is epis. This seasoning, made up of ingredients such as peppers, garlic, onions, thyme, and more, act as a foundation of flavor. It is used in stews, soups, rice, meats, and vegetarian dishes.

Traditionally, Haitians make a dish called soup joumou for New Year's to observe Haiti's liberation from French rule on January 1, 1804. 

Image Credit: Canva

Among other famous Haitian foods are griot (also known as "griyo") that is a fried pork dish; diri djon djon, which is Haitian black rice, and pikliz, a spicy pickled side to the main meal. The level of spice depends on the family tradition but for true Haitian pikliz, the spicier, the better.

National Celebrations

Haitian Carnival, 2016

Bmcao2, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Haitian Carnival (Kanaval in Kreyƍl) is an annual festival full of music, dancers, food, and traditions such as Lansèt Kòd. Stemming from slavery, enslaved people were banned from attending the event. Instead, they put on their own events in their backyards. Dressed in rags, they used ashes and grease to paint their skin, and mock the behaviors of the enslavers. This tradition continues to present-day Kanaval to celebrate freedom and remain connected to their roots. Papier-mâché depictions of animals and vodou characters also appear as part of the festivities. 


Haitian Creole is derived from several languages including French, Spanish, African languages, and Portuguese. Created rebelliously by the enslaved people in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), it is one of two official languages in the country; the other is French. 


Christianity is the largest religious belief system in Haiti. As of 2017, approximately 55% of the people describe themselves as Catholic. Protestants make up 29% of the population and 10% of people subscribe to other religions like Islam and Judaism, amongst others. 

Vodou, commonly spelled "voodoo", stems from a combination of West African Yoruba, Santeria from Latin America, indigenous beliefs, and Catholic rituals. About 2.1% of Haiti's population are practitioners of vodou. Some practice vodou along with a second belief system, usually Catholicism.

In 2003, vodou was officially recognized as a religion in Haiti.

The World Factbook