Calendar of Ethnic Festivals


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Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Swim
January 1, 1 pm
Coney Island, Stillwell Avenue & the Boardwalk

Since 1903, members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club (probably the oldest such swim club in America having celebrated its 100th anniversary on New Year’s Day 2003) have been rejuvenating themselves weekly in the winter waters of the Atlantic. Temperatures as low as 34 degrees cannot sway what one long-time fan calls this “unique group of hearty souls.” Join in their special New Year’s Day ceremony.

Following the raising of the American and Polar Bear Club flags and a few calisthenics on the beach, the swimmers enter the ocean and turn to face the sun. Take part in the regular swim every Sunday at 1:00 p.m. from November to May.

For more information: Coney Island Polar Bear Club:

last update: 9/2008

Three Kings’ Day Parade
Weekday near January 6th, 10:30 am to noon,
East Harlem, begins at El Museo del Barrio, Fifth Avenue at 104th Street

Since 1977 East Harlem has celebrated El Dia de los Reyes Magos with a Three Kings Day parade, a joyous procession through the streets of El Barrio dramatizing the three wise Kings’ biblical journey to the Christ child. Led by the three Kings in regal, bejeweled costumes, and accompanied by camels, sheep, or horses, tall puppets, and inspirational music makers, hundreds of children and adults march through the neighborhood and hundreds more line the streets to watch.

The parade is followed by a lively theater program at El Museo’s Teatro Hecksher, concluding with the tradition of gift giving by the Three Kings to the children attending the event. For weeks before the parade, children prepare floats, costumes and puppets, their enthusiasm fueled by anticipation of the Latino community’s major gift-giving holiday. All are invited to join the free celebration. Advance registration is REQUIRED for group participation in the parade and theater program.

For more information: El Museo del Barrio: 212-831-7272,

last update: 9/2008

Winter Pageant
Last weekend in January
Tompkins Square Park

Halfway between the solstice and the equinox, urban gardeners of the Lower East Side and their neighbors “carry the light of nature into spring” to celebrate gardens, community, city, and earth. The winter pageant features an illuminated procession of spectacular costumed winter spirits and giant puppets representing “Father Winter,” “Ice Spirit,” and “Earth Spirit,” dancing snowflakes in glittering gowns, and hundreds of glowing lanterns. The spectacular winter ceremony features: fire dancers, a garden-scape of shadow, light, and multi-media projections, singers, and an illuminated winter angel that flies from a six-story building into the garden. Hot cider and apples are usually served. The happy procession wraps around Tompkins Square Park and culminates at 638 East 6th Street (between Aves. B & C). The performance takes place at the Plaza Cultural Garden on 9th St. & Ave. C—SW corner.

For more information: Earth Celebrations: 212-777-7969,

last update: 9/2008

Idul Fitr
Late January, 8:30 a.m. until dusk
Prospect Park, if weather permits, otherwise held in mosques citywide

This “feast of the breaking of the fast,” ends the Islamic month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during daylight hours. The first day of the Eid begins early with congregational prayers and a sermon. When held in Prospect Park, the sight of thousands of Muslims gathered to pray in unison—many in traditional dress and turbans—is moving in its scale and solemnity. The rest of the day is spent feasting and sharing gifts.

For more information: Al-Taqwa Mosque 718-622-0800

last update: 5/2004


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