Guide to Kwanzaa in Washington, D.C.: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Kinara candles for Kwanzaa celebration

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Kwanzaa is a seven-day cultural celebration that was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement. The holiday is celebrated each year on December 26 through January 1 by African Americans as a way to reaffirm their heritage and culture and their bonds to one another as a community. Kwanzaa is celebrated with a candle-lighting ceremony, a feast, and gift-giving among family and friends. Here are some special events honoring Kwanzaa around the Washington, D.C. area.

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Alexandria Black History Museum

The museum's annual Kwanzaa celebration explores the history and significance of Kwanzaa. Learn about the principles of Kwanzaa, a seven-day cultural celebration. The program will include a variety of creative games, interactive songs, dances and hands-on crafts. There is a $5.00 fee for this event. Reservations are strongly encouraged. There's also a workshop on how to celebrate Kwanzaa on December 8, 2018. The staff of the ABHM and Marilyn Patterson, CEO of Joyous Events, will be holding a morning lecture on the history and traditions of Kwanzaa.

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Coyaba Dance Theater

Founded in 1997, the Coyaba Dance Theater has been an institution for traditional and contemporary West African dance and music. As such, the group performs an annual Kwanzaa Celebration (held on December 15-16, 2018) that focuses on the seven principles of Kwanzaa (unity, self-determination, responsibility, purpose, creativity, faith, cooperative economics). The performance includes singing, dancing, drumming, storytelling and more. Tickets start at $15.

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Anacostia Community Museum

As a branch of the Smithsonian Institution, The Anacostia Community Museum highlights about 6,000 objects that represent Black history from the 1800s to the present. Visitors learn through an array workshops, film screenings, educational events, and exhibits displaying art, archaeology, textiles, photographs, music instruments, and more. The facility opened in 1967, in a converted movie theater in Southeast Washington, D.C., and today the collection highlights African American religion, spirituality, art, and community.

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Harambee is a family-friendly program, this year showcasing Baba Ras D, a Rastafarian and native Washingtonian who plays Bob Marley, classic children's songs, and original reggae-inspired tunes. He practices empathy and inclusiveness as a school of thought called Harambee. There will also be dancing, singing, arts and crafts, colorful costumes, lively characters, and more. The annual event will be held on December 28, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC).

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