One thing my family has leaned into in the past few years (especially after all the quality time we spent together in 2020 and 2021) is making holidays really meaningful and special in non-traditional ways. We’ve gotten to a place where holidays and special occasions don’t have to be over-the-top, Pinterest-worthy celebrations as long as they are acknowledged in a way that creates core memories for us. One holiday we’ve embraced in the past few years is Juneteenth. We have enjoyed several of these 5 fun Juneteenth celebrations for families and will continue the tradition this year.  

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last group of enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom. This was a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. 

Looking back on this period in history creates an opportunity for us to both celebrate and reflect. We can celebrate African American culture, history, and achievements. And we can reflect on where we are today, along with the ongoing struggle for racial justice. Juneteenth also provides a worthwhile opportunity to support Black-owned businesses, schools, universities, and other economic endeavors. 

When is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth falls on June 19th each year, and the holiday’s name is a combination of the words “June” and “Nineteenth.” This year, it falls on the Monday following Father’s Day, creating the chance to seize a full weekend of family fun! 

Now that Juneteenth is recognized as a federal holiday, complete with a day off from work and school, the day is ripe for family and community celebrations, from small, creative moments at home to larger-scale events with family and friends! 

I’ve rounded up 5 fun ways you can commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth with your family this year.

5 fun Juneteenth Celebrations For Families5 Fun Juneteenth Celebrations For Families

Take in Black History

The most important part of this day is the historical piece and what it signified for formerly enslaved African American people to be free in this country. Part of preserving our story as a culture is passing down historical facts, word-of-mouth stories, and generational memories. 

Dive into the details of Freedom Day, as well as other significant events in Black history, as a family.  Make learning an exciting event by attending cultural events, visiting historical sites, or touring museums. If there’s a Black History Museum in your local area, taking a tour there is a great start. You can also try checking the African American literature or the non-fiction section of your local library for books and videos to borrow. And you can stream historical documentaries from the comfort of your home. 

Since it can be challenging to help young children understand the concept and significance of slavery, it’s a really good idea to share with them in simple language and ideas they can understand. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., has created an excellent teaching guide for helping kids to better understand the historical events of Juneteenth, as well as resources, including books and videos, to assist you in providing this invaluable information. 

Attend Local Juneteenth Family Events 

As Juneteenth has gained more mainstream attention, more and more local events are happening, offering the chance to enjoy and reflect with your community. And those that were already in place for years are getting a boost of energy and attraction. Try searching for Juneteenth events, like festivals, picnics, and parades, in your local area. Not sure how to find them? Outlets like Facebook’s events feature, Eventbrite, your local news sites, and even mom groups in your area usually have up-to-date information on activities for families. 

Host Your Own Juneteenth Celebrations For Families 

Feel like hosting? Invite extended family and friends to commemorate the day with you, connecting and strengthening your shared sense of community. You can serve red food and drink, like barbecued meats, red beans and rice, red velvet cake, and watermelon, as is customary on Juneteenth for recognizing the sacrifices made by our ancestors. And you can include cultural foods that your family loves, especially those with Southern roots, like fried chicken, sweet potatoes, and collards. 

Host an Anti-Racist Book Club

Our family loves to read, so hosting or participating in an anti-racist book club is one of our favorite ways to connect with friends and family during the entire month of June, including on Juneteenth. We read books by people of color about everything from slavery to history to diversity, both fiction and non-fiction. Adults re-read our favorites, and we introduce our daughter to new books she hasn’t yet read both by and about people of color. Last year we added The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz, and Change Sings, by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long, to her collection, among others. We’ve found The Conscious Kid to be an amazing resource for book lists and other educational tools.  

Doing activities or crafts related to your reading is a fun way to enhance learning and comprehension. Here’s a list of ideas to have your kids try:

  • Draw a picture of what’s important to you, or what change you might like to see in the world
  • Write a journal entry about what it means to be free
  • Create a Juneteenth or Pan-African flag (this tutorial can help)

Support a Black-Owned Business

We support Black-owned businesses all year round, but we like to ramp up our support at key times of the year, including Juneteenth weekend. Show your kids how you support Black-owned businesses like local artisans, restaurants, clothing stores, and plant shops, as well as online businesses you may already be a fan of. 

Juneteenth is also the perfect weekend to support causes that are important to you. Giving to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges or Universities) around the country is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, as many are in dire need of financial resources.  I like to use this as an opportunity to make an annual donation to my alma mater, Morgan State University.

Local to Pittsburgh? Here’s a round up of Juneteenth celebrations happening this weekend.

What other activities would you add to this list of Juneteenth celebrations for families?