How to throw a Juneteenth party full of food, friends, and freedom

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but this life-changing news came late to those living in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Union Army Major General Gordon Granger delivered the news of liberation to enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas.

In the summer of 2021, Juneteenth—a coined term derived from the words June and nineteenth —finally became a federal holiday, giving rise to even more family backyard get-togethers and community celebrations to kick off the summer season. 

Mark this important anniversary with family and friends this year with traditional red foods—if you know, you know—and BBQ, the hallmarks of any Juneteenth celebration. Let us help you plan a Juneteenth celebration to rival any Independence Day get-together you’ve ever attended. From Juneteenth invitations to tips on wording your invite, Paperless Post has got you covered! And remember, if someone lives too far away to celebrate with you locally, you can always send them a festive Juneteenth greeting card.

Read on for some one-of-a-kind ways to throw a memorable Juneteenth event, and give this important holiday the credit it so rightfully deserves!

 

Left: Overhead photo of grilled chicken and corn on the cob; Right: A Juneteenth invitation featuring people serving potluck-style food on a blue gingham tablecloth.Image by Chelsea Kyle; “Juneteenth Table” by Paperless Post.

 

What is Juneteenth and why is it celebrated? 

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t an act of profound love for enslaved Africans. Preservation of the Union was the goal, and as such, the Emancipation Proclamation applied to states that had seceded from the Union. These states were using enslaved Africans in their war efforts. Through emancipation, Lincoln’s plan was to weaken the Confederacy’s power and ensure U.S. Army victories. Once army troops arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865, they were able to enforce the emancipation of over 500,000 enslaved.  

Emancipation Day, also known as Freedom Day, was recognized as a state holiday in Texas in 1980. In subsequent years, other states like Washington, New York, Illinois, and Virginia made Juneteenth an official state holiday. It wasn’t until 2021, on the tails of the Black Lives Matter movement, that June 19 became a federal holiday.

 

Close up photo of hands drumming on African-style drums.Image by northshore magazine.

 

Why is it called Juneteenth?

In the early days of what was then known as Jubilee Day, celebrations occurred at churches across Texas but word quickly spread across the South. The periodical, “The Current Issue”, coined the words June and 19th to form, Juneteenth, in 1909.

 

Left: A Juneteenth invitation featuring musical instruments; Right: Fireworks at night.“Juneteenth Celebration” by Paperless Post; Image by Kristian Løvstad.

 

What are some Juneteenth traditions?

What’s great about Juneteenth is that there is no wrong way to celebrate. Because many will have time off from work for this brand new federal holiday, you can go all out and create an event to remember! If this is your first time hosting a Juneteenth bash, Paperless Post has you covered from invitations to Juneteenth party ideas. 

Early traditions began with a food festival involving barbeque (It’s originally a Texas holiday, after all!). The color red became central to the food festivals of Juneteenth because it is a West African symbol of strength and spirituality. Beverages made from hibiscus—native to West Africa—and other red foods, were commonly served then, and are still popular in Juneteenth celebrations today. As Juneteenth gains traction as a federal holiday, more opportunities for celebrating will arise. For now, here are some ways to commemorate this important day in our history:

– Use hibiscus to make tea, salads, and jellies

– Make a red velvet cake or cupcakes

– Set off fireworks 

– Host a backyard barbeque

As Frederick Douglas once said, “What to the slave, is the Fourth of July?” Juneteenth offers a unique opportunity for those of us who have never felt quite right celebrating Independence Day. It’s a time to create new family traditions and make memories with loved ones. Here are a few ideas for your next Juneteenth celebration.

 

An animated invite featuring a Black Freedom flag and the words “Black history is American history.”“Freedom Flag” Flyer by Paperless Post.

 

Ideas for celebrating Juneteenth

If you’ve never hosted Juneteenth before, let this first event be one to remember. Whether you plan a backyard barbeque—which could also double as a family reunion—or you pull together a family movie night, the food needs to be your focus. We’ve got a wide selection of family reunion invitations to choose from, so don’t delay!                                                   

If it’s a barbecue you’re planning, you can’t go wrong with pork shoulder or chicken on the grill. Serve up some ribs from the smoker. You could also just keep it simple with burgers and hot dogs and an over-the-top toppings bar. 

Alternately, hosting a backyard movie night is the perfect way to screen a film you’ve been meaning to see. If you don’t have the space indoors, head outside for a movie under the stars. These starry night plates from our Party Shop and this inflatable movie screen will bring the party together. Add in some delicious desserts and fun Juneteenth party decorations and you’ve got a party that will soon become a summertime family tradition. 

No matter the theme, get started with your Juneteenth menu planning with a few of these delicious recipes: 

Hibiscus tea 

Strawberry Soda

Tea Cakes

Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls 

Red Velvet Cake 

Pork Shoulder BBQ

Gullah Red Rice 

 

Engaging activities for your Juneteenth event

What is a Juneteenth celebration without activities to commemorate the importance of the day? Whether you’re having a backyard BBQ or hosting a fundraiser at your workplace, here are a few ways to make the event more hands-on and engaging for everyone.

 

Family-friendly activities for a fun Juneteenth celebration 

If you’re hosting a Juneteenth movie night, consider setting up a few ice breakers for everyone to do before the movie begins; as they’re enjoying S’mores or cocktails. A friendly but competitive game of charades featuring notable people in Black history is one way to kick off the party.

Get everyone working together to solve clues for a Juneteenth family history scavenger hunt. This is a great way for some of the younger generation to learn more about the grown folks, and vice-versa. Clues can highlight facts about older family members’ lives in their younger years to help everyone feel closer together.

 

How to celebrate Juneteenth in a professional setting

Incorporating a Juneteenth celebration in the workplace should be fun, educational, and respectful. Are Black employees on the planning committee? Seek the opinions and insight of those within the Black community to ensure you’re heading in the right direction with your planning.

It’s essential to remain mindful that not everyone enjoys a potluck, so consider bringing in a catered meal from a local Black-owned restaurant.  

Host an educational company event with a leader in the community. Joseph McGill of The Slave Dwelling Project provides tremendous insight and information about the lives of enslaved Africans, Juneteenth, and Black History, overall. 

Inviting community speakers, authors, and business owners to your event is another way to honor Juneteenth in a professional setting. Fundraisers always garner interest and can be a great way to give back.

 

 

Juneteenth party themes & invite wording

So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to plan your Juneteenth celebration. Below you’ll find several Juneteenth event ideas to help you brainstorm your next gathering. You’ll then be able to send out Juneteenth invitations to your guests. You’ll want to do this at least two weeks in advance to make sure your guests make room for your event on their busy summer calendars. Don’t worry about what to write in your Juneteenth invitations—we’ve included ideas and wording to help make it easier.

 

– Juneteenth Jubilee

Celebrate June 19 with a throwback Juneteenth Jubilee with us, 

it’s a dessert party and you’re invited! 

Please join us for a 

Juneteenth Jubilee Dessert Party

Bring your favorite dessert to share!

Sunday, June 19th at  7 P.M.

1402 Robert Smalls Boulevard

 

– BBQ

Celebrate freedom with food! 

Please join us for a party in celebration of Juneteenth, 

Black freedom, and delicious barbeque 

Come out, bring a side, and let’s have some fun!

Sunday, June 19th at 12 P.M.

1865 Galveston Bay Drive 

 

– Fundraiser

You’re invited to celebrate emancipation at the Juneteenth Freedom Day Gala!

Take part in the silent auction and enjoy a fashion show highlighting Black designers.

Light hors d’oeuvres and complimentary champagne will be served. 

Proceeds to benefit the Ms. Foundation for Women

Sunday, June 19th at 7 P.M.

2021 Main Street South

 

– Movie night

It’s a Juneteenth Movie Night.

Join us for a film screening of “Miss Juneteenth” followed by

a discussion to celebrate Freedom Day!

Sunday, June 19th at 7 P.M.

1863 Vesey Drive

– Family reunion

 

 

Williams Family, it’s time for a reunion!

What better day than Juneteenth for our annual get-together?

Join us for a fun-filled afternoon of food, family, and nighttime fireworks.


Sunday, June 19th at 3 P.M.

1227 Granger Avenue

 

An animated invite featuring a phonograph with music notes coming out of it.“Phonograph” Flyer by Paperless Post.

 

Planning your Juneteenth party with Paperless Post

With Paperless Post, you can choose from dozens of gorgeous invitations and Flyers for your Juneteenth party. Not only will these creative and memorable invitations be sure to leave an impression, but they can also be sent entirely online—no stamps or envelopes needed.

Planning a big event? Don’t stress. Paperless Post includes online RSVP tracking to keep your guest list in check—plus, you can message guests directly from the site. Plan your next Juneteenth party today with a little help from Paperless Post!

 

Browse Juneteenth Invitations

Every product in this post is one we personally love and can confidently recommend to our users. Paperless Post may earn a commission through affiliate links on this post. Editor’s note: Party Shop shipping is only available in the continental US.