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December 23, 2022

Celebrate Kwanzaa in Philly with kinara lightings, a virtual cooking class, and holiday crafts

The African American Museum will conduct events throughout the six-day festival from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1

Holiday Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa 2022 Philadelphia Provided image/African American Museum in Philadelphia

Kwanzaa takes place Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. In Philadelphia, there are opportunities to celebrate with kinara lightings, craft and storytelling sessions and more. The African American Museum in Philadelphia has events planned throughout the holiday.

The day after Christmas marks the beginning of Kwanzaa, a week-long secular holiday started just 56 years ago to celebrate African American and pan-African culture and traditions. 

Created by activist Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa takes place Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, and uses Swahilli to explain its seven principles: unity, self-determination, purpose, faith, creativity, cooperative economics, and, jointly, collective work and responsibility. It takes its inspiration from fruit harvest festivals across Africa. 

MORE: Travel back in time to 1770s Philadelphia with a holiday walking tour of Old City

There are plenty of ways to participate in the festival and learn more about its values and traditions, in person and virtually. Here some of the Kwanzaa festivities taking place next week.

African American Museum of Philadelphia

701 Arch St.

On Monday, Dec. 26, the African American Museum of Philadelphia will host a unity celebration from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. There will be a traditional kinara lighting, along with open-mic poetry and a drum circle. On Tuesday, Dec. 27, the museum hosts a virtual panel discussion with Black entrepreneurs and professionals. On Wednesday, Dec. 28, the museum hosts a virtual story hour exploring the role of the Griot — an oral storyteller in African tradition. 

For Thursday, Dec. 29, AAMP has organized a Black-owned business night market taking place from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Then, there will be guided tours at the museum along with a paint party inspired by its art exhibit on Friday Dec. 30. On New Year's Eve, Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriett's Bookshop in Fishtown, conducts a virtual book club and cooking class

The museum's Kwanzaa celebration wraps up Sunday, Jan. 1 with a virtual meditation and movement practice help people reflect on the principles of the holiday and set their intentions for the new year.  

Franklin Square

200 N. Sixth St.

In partnership with AAMP, there will be outdoor Kwanzaa celebrations at Franklin Square on Thursday, Dec. 29, and Friday, Dec. 30, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. each day. There will be craft tables on the square and museum staff on hand to teach visitors more about Kwanzaa and its foundational principles. The event is free to attend and open to the public.

Boathouse Row

Philadelphia's Kwanzaa celebration kicks off at 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 26. Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River will be illuminated in red, green, and yellow. The lighting ceremony will be streamed on Zoom, and in person, two of the best vantage points will be from the Fairmount Water Works or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. 

Free Library of Philadelphia branches

Lucien E. Blackwell Library, 125 S. 52nd St.; Northeast Regional Library, 2228 Cottman Ave.

Head to the Lucien E. Blackwell Regional Library on Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 2 p.m. for the Taste of Africa pop-up. Chef Shayla Felton-Dorsey will prepare a dish from the African diaspora and guests can reflect on the meaning of Kwanzaa's principle of Ujima, which means collective work and responsibility. 

Also on Wednesday at 2 p.m., the Northeast Regional Library celebrates Kwanzaa with a storytelling session and crafts for families. Children can make their own paper plate kinara while learning more about Kwanzaa and how it is celebrated throughout the United States. 

South Street Headhouse District

Second and South streets

The Headhouse District will have an all-day Kwanzaa display at Second and South streets on Monday, Dec. 26, and people celebrating the holiday are encourages to gather at the communal space at Headhouse Plaza.