Celebrate Kwanzaa at the Museum on December 31 main content.

Celebrate Kwanzaa at the Museum on December 31

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At a time when Kwanzaa was still a rather new tradition, the Museum became one of the places where New York-area residents came to celebrate. Over the past 33 years, the annual Kwanzaa gathering at the Museum has grown into one of the most engaging events of its kind. This year’s celebration on December 31 will feature an array of high-energy performers, an international marketplace, and more. Monique Scott, assistant director for cultural education at the Museum, recently answered a few questions about the holiday and the history of the Kwanzaa celebration at the Museum.

What values does Kwanzaa honor?

Kwanzaa celebrates the interconnectedness of humanity, as well as the connections between humans and the natural world, making it a great fit for the Museum. The holiday illustrates the ways culture is always reinventing and renewing itself. Several of Kwanzaa’s core principles represent important general cultural ideals—unity, collective responsibility, a strong sense of community building and community preservation, education of youth, and respect of elders, to name a few.

Why is the Museum a great place to celebrate this holiday?

The festival at the Museum has continuously grown over the last 33 years to include new traditions, performers, events, and an ever-expanding audience. Some 9,000 visitors have come to the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to celebrate Kwanzaa and attend the marketplace. Despite Kwanzaa’s strong ties to Africa and the African-American community, it is actually quite a global holiday. Anyone of any faith can celebrate Kwanzaa and it is honored by many people around the world. This makes the Museum a great home for Kwanzaa. We can connect the holiday to our amazing African art and artifacts—such as our many musical instruments and ceremonial objects on display—but also to our ceremonial objects throughout all of our cultural halls.

View the slideshow below for photos from last year’s celebration.