NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Saturday was the first day of Kwanzaa, and while celebrations are smaller this year because of the coronavirus, they’re not less meaningful for the African-American community.

Thousands of people in New York City marked the beginning of the week-long celebration, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife outside City Hall.

One of the largest celebrations of African heritage, the seven-day holiday focuses on the importance of family and community.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum kicked off its 13th annual Kwanzaa celebration on Dec. 26, 2020. (Credit: CBS2)

At the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, annual activities were smaller in scale due to COVID but still big in spirit.

“We really have an opportunity to use this as an informal way to educate both our community near and far about Kwanzaa and the principles of Kwanzaa as well,” said Atiba Edwards, COO and executive vice president of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Dad Hughton Anderson, who was at the museum with his son Hudson, said Kwanzaa is an important family tradition.

“We’re of West Indian, Jamaican and African descent. He’s Jamaican Guyanese, and I want him to know about his cultures,” Anderson told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.

Originally created in 1966 during the Civil Rights era by Dr. Maulana Karenga to celebrate African-American culture, Kwanzaa centers around seven principles, one for each day of the holiday.

They include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

“Each day you start off the day with lighting a candle and reciting that principle of the day, and then it is often rooted around coming togetherness,” Edwards said.

Edwards added that in Swahili, Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase meaning first fruits or harvest.

“Imagery that is rich and bountiful in fruits and vegetables. It’s tied back to the common principles of gathering,” he said.

Those who observe Kwanzaa will spend the week taking part in many traditions, including singing, dancing and sharing traditional meals.

Many say given the challenges of 2020, this year, the holiday’s seven principles take on an even deeper meaning.

“I feel like this is a great way to just come together, even in the midst of chaos,” said Naaayele Ababi, a performer with the Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum will continue its Kwanzaa celebration Sunday. Kwanzaa concludes on Jan. 1.

Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.

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