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How to Celebrate Kwanzaa Locally This December

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Coming up right after Christmas is the celebration of Kwanzaa in the United States. It’s a week-long celebration that honors African Americans’ ancestral roots that takes place Saturday, December 26th until Friday, January 1st.

The non-religious holiday was introduced to the U.S. in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, who created the festival for African Americans as a response to the commercialism of Christmas. The 7-day celebration consists of gift-giving and a Feast of Faith called Karamu Ya Imani that takes place on the sixth day, December 31st. The celebration is defined by the Seven Principles – with each day having special meaning and each day is marked by lighting a candle on the kinara {a seven-branched candelabra}.

The Seven Principles are as follows: Umoja stands for unity in Swahili {a Bantu language}, Kujichagulia stands for self-determination, Ujima stands for collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa stands for cooperative economics {uplifting your community economically}, Nia stands for purpose, Kuumba stands for creativity, and Imani stands for faith. Whether you’re part of the African American culture or not, here are various ways you can take part in the annual festival locally.

kwanzaa celebrations new jersey

Participate in a Virtual Celebration

NJPAC Kwanzaa Virtual Festival

{Photo credit: @njpac}

New Jersey for Performing Arts Center

The New Jersey for Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) held a virtual Kwanzaa festival on December 19th. The day’s activities include a Tribute to the Elders featuring Amina Baraka, Stanley Terrell, and Councilwoman Mildred Crump. Following that, you can tune-in for a conversation about Social Justice Through the Lens of the Divine 9 {the 9 major National Pan-Hellenic organizations}. Afterward, the principle of Ujima {collective work and responsibility} will be discussed in a conversation on The Strength of Black Theater. Finally, you can take part in the Kwanzaa Virtual Movement Classes, learn Step Afrika on-demand or learn some arts & crafts also on-demand on December 19th. To register for these events, visit NJPAC’s website.

Montclair Public Library Foundation

To celebrate the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, the Montclair Public Library Foundation will be sponsoring a virtual family program on Saturday, December 26th at 5:00PM. Those who register will be able to sing and clap along with April Armstrong who is the recipient of the National Storytellers Networks 2020 J.J. Reneaux Emerging Artist Award for Storytelling. She will be teaching songs in Zulu {Zimbabwe} and Akan {Ghana} and sharing uplifting folktales from African, the Caribbean Islands, African-American traditions, and others. To register, click here.

Read More: An A-Z List of Local Brick-and-Mortar Hoboken Businesses to Support Every Day

Watch African Dance Performances

The Newark Museum of Art

The Newark Museum of Art will be having a special Holiday Jamboree celebration on December 12th starting at 2:00PM. Performers from Zawadi African Drum and Dance and Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre will showcase their extraordinary talents with a live performance honoring Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day. For more information on their virtual holiday celebration and to register for the free event, click here.

Union Public Library

This year the Union Public Library is hosting a virtual Family Kwanzaa Celebration on Saturday, December 19th from 12:30-1:30PM. It’s a free virtual event that will celebrate Kwanzaa with dance, poetry, and a very special guest speaker. If interested, you can RSVP for the event here.

apollo theater kwanzaa celebration

{Photo credit: @apollotheater}

Apollo Theater

New York City’s Apollo Theater will be hosting Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night, a virtual experience, on Sunday, December 27th starting at 7:00PM. The event features Abdel R. Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre with special guests Mumu Fresh, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and Harlem Children’s Zone among others. For more information and to RSVP, visit Apollo’s website found here.

Take a Weekend Trip to Philadelphia

If you have no plans for December 26th and December 27th, a weekend getaway to Philadelphia sounds like a good idea! The African American Museum will be hosting Kwanzaa Weekend at Franklin Square with live events both days from 1:30-5:00PM. Events include a processional where Sistahs will be laying down hands from the Museum to Franklin Square and share the History of Kwanzaa. There will also be a craft table demo by Monique Gordon, Kwanzaa Storytime, and drumming, dancing, songs, and more. For more information, visit their website here.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

As part of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Kwanzaa Festival, there is an online artisan marketplace where you can shop one-of-a-kind handcrafted items. Participating vendors include African Cultural Art {handmade crafts from Kenya}, Ashanti Fields {West African clothing and accessories}, Clutch N Colors {hand-painted clutches and accessories}, Clymer Metal Crafts {handcrafted fine jewelry}, Puzzles For Us {cultural-educational material and resources}, Woodcrafts by Obanion {handcrafted wooden products and kinaras} and many more.

Kwanzaa marketplace new jersey

{Photo credit: @njpac}

We’ve rounded up a listing of black-owned businesses in Hoboken and Jersey City. You can find a list of businesses to support, including nail salons, spas, restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and many more by viewing our recent article found here.

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Written by:

After landing her dream job as a reporter for In Touch Weekly and Life & Style Weekly, Diana moved to The Heights in 2014 and has been living in Jersey City since then. Diana enjoys riding her bike at Lincoln Park and taking fitness classes in the downtown area in her free time. She loves binging reality TV shows, dining out and grabbing drinks with friends, and traveling to new places. Her work has led her to meet and interview celebrities as well as attend exclusive events and premieres in New York City. But at the end of the day, what she enjoys the most is cuddling up with her newly adopted kitten, Chloe.