NEWARK, NJ — Thousands are expected to gather on the campus of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 17, as the venue’s annual Kwanzaa Family Festival returns as an in-person celebration. The festival has been held at NJPAC for more than a decade.
“We are so excited to welcome our whole community back to this so-much-loved celebration, one of the longest-running arts center traditions,” said Eyesha Marable, NJPAC’s assistant vice president of community engagement. “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to over the past two years. Virtual events are great, but there’s nothing like seeing this whole building filled with families, children and elders enjoying the season.”
Free performances will be held every hour in the arts center’s Prudential Hall lobby from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free family activities — including dance and drumming classes, face painting, storytelling, child-friendly arts and crafts workshops, plus a coat and toy giveaway for the children of the community — will be held throughout NJPAC’s indoor campus from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Each event and activity embodies one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, a holiday dedicated to celebrating African American culture and community.
A Kwanzaa candle-lighting ceremony and a vibunzi — a tradition of honoring young people with an ear of corn, or, in this case, a slice of cornbread, to represent the hope for the future they bring — will be a highlight of the day’s celebration.
In addition, the arts center’s annual Kwanzaa Artisan Marketplace, featuring local crafters, artists and merchants, will fill both the Prudential Hall lobby and the hallways outside Prudential Hall’s first- and second-tier entrances all weekend. The marketplace will be open throughout the festival and during Saturday’s two performances of NJPAC’s own genre-blending holiday production, “The Hip Hop Nutcracker.” The marketplace will also be open on Friday, Dec. 16, from 7 to 11 p.m., before and after a performance by Cuban salsa stars Willy Chirino and Leoni Torres, and on Sunday, Dec. 18, from 2 to 6 p.m., before and after the State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine’s performance of the traditional holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker.”
Registration for the festival opens at 9 a.m. in person. Families can also register in advance at tinyurl.com/2p956bef. For a complete list of activities, visit tinyurl.com/yr49cseu.