Christmas is an annual celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December. Christmas got its name from ‘mass of Christ, a service where Christians remember the birth of Jesus, who died for their sins and came back to life. It has become widely accepted and is celebrated religiously and culturally by billions of people around the globe.
No one knows the exact date of birth of Jesus, so why do we celebrate it on 25th December of every year? A very early Christmas tradition documents the Annunciation on 25th March, and nine months later is 25th December (Cooper, 2020).
Christmas is truly a wonderful time of the year. We are constantly encouraged to get into the season’s spirit that is all about being joyful, charitable, generous, kind, and forgiving. Santa Claus is a moral watchman of children, the embodiment of good cheer, and a gift-giver. The code of generosity and kindness is especially strong at this time of the year, and those who practice it have a strong Christmas spirit.
What Christmas looks like depends on where you go. Americans have their favorite traditions to drum up the holiday cheer. Picking out a Christmas tree marks the beginning of the festive season. A tree of the perfect size is chosen and then adorned in sparkly decorations that usher in the spirit of Christmas. Opening gifts on Christmas eve is probably every kid’s favorite time. Getting to see what Santa has brought you after a whole year of trying to be on your best behavior. Leaving cookies and a tall glass of milk for Santa is such a thoughtful tradition. After all, Santa will be up all-night delivering gifts to all children; he definitely needs a bit of a snack. Others take up caroling in their community to spread the Christmas cheer.
The holiday season is a magical time in St. Louis. The holiday spirit is infectious, and places are just waiting to dazzle and delight all who are enchanted by the beauty. There are diverse ways in which people celebrate the holiday owing to the multicultural nature of people. The ‘Gateway to the West’ shines so brightly with Christmas lights and is sure to put everyone in the Christmas mood (Butler, 2021).
A major attraction in St. Louis is Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park. Wayne Kennedy founded winter wonderland in 1986 to create a display of lights to spread Christmas cheer (Hofbauer, 2021). Visitors take their time strolling through the park, marveling at countless glimmering lights built into displays of characters and winter scenes. St. Louis County Parks donates a portion of the fees collected to a charity or non-profit group in the spirit of Christmas.
Families can enjoy a festive gourmet breakfast with Santa at the St. Louis Zoo. There are private tables set aside for groups, and Santa and his helpers visit each. Children receive special gi8fts from Santa Claus, and parents enjoy free parking. The zoo is also decorated with a million lights, and guests stroll through as they are treated to animated light displays and fireside stories (STL, 2021).
The Christmas season is being secularized day by day. It has become a giving holiday even for those who do not subscribe to Christianity. The Christmas spirit helps us maintain a civil society.
Butler, S. (2021, November 25). Here Are The Top 11 Christmas Towns in Missouri. Retrieved from Only in your state: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/missouri/christmas-towns-mo/
Cooper, J. (2020). Why is Christmas Day on the 25th December? Retrieved from Why Christmas: https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/25th.shtml
Hofbauer, D. (2021, November 18). Tilles Park continues time-honored Winter Wonderland. Retrieved from COLUMBIA MISSOURIAN: https://www.columbiamissourian.com/special_section/tourism/st_louis/tilles-park-continues-time-honored-winter-wonderland/article_dc279be0-2153-11eb-b8a0-b7d1509d237d.html
STL. (2021, December 2). Breakfast with Santa at the Saint Louis Zoo. Retrieved from STL Parent: https://www.stlparent.com/event/breakfast-with-santa-st-louis-zoo
A community is always dynamic. It is a group of people with a common sense of identity who participate in ongoing shared experiences (Torenberg, 2018). Great communities are aligned along value. They are a great part of our human existence and greatly impact our worldview. American identity and culture have been enriched by integrating diverse racial and ethnic groups.
Art, culture, and creativity in communities includes the cultural expressions of ethnic, racial, age, and special interest groups. Art expresses our thoughts, intuition, desires, culture, and beliefs (Titi, 2019). From the days of early man, humans used their simple tools and resources to make art. They had dances for different seasons and occasions and used their creativity to preserve this culture. Studies have shown how we learn, and different parts of the brain process what we see and feel in different ways. Art translates ideas into symbols as people pursue different means of communication where words may not be as effective (Przybylek, 2021).
Arts and culture interweave into the fabric of a community and create a vibrant group united in diversity. Individuals benefit from the arts in so many ways. Exposure to creative endeavors and different cultures makes people more open-minded to other people’s views and opinions (Rabang, 2018).
St Louis is home to ‘Fabulous Fox’ Fox Theatre. The theatre hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and speaking events. Other theatres in the area include The Muny, The Repertory Theatre of St Louis, The Black Repertory Theater, and Opera Theatre of St Louis. One of the most notable shows of St. Louis is NBC’s Americas Got Talent Show that ran from March 8 to March 10, 2012.
The St Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest symphony orchestra in the United Stated, only preceded by the New York Philharmonic. It is housed at Powell Hall in midtown St Louis. The Orchestra has received six prestigious Grammy awards and fifty-six nominations. It is an integral part of St. Louis creative culture.
Due to the restraints imposed by the COVID pandemic, Jazz St. Louis offers a musical experience that can be enjoyed without having to leave the safety of our homes. They bring the Sounds of St. Louis to wherever you are by providing free streaming seasons. One can also join the Facebook watch parties as a cohort every Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is a Roman Catholic Cathedral built in the Byzantine and Romanesque styles. It is one of the city’s major tourist attractions due to the beauty of its mosaic interior. It holds the world’s most extensive mosaic collection created by the German firm of August Wagner, which later became the famed Ravenna Mosaic Company (Lori, 2021).
The St. Louis Art Museum is among the pioneer art museums with paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces from all corners of the world. It boasts of collections from virtually every culture and period. It is visited by about half a million people annually who marvel at the extensive and diverse pieces of art from typically everywhere in the world.
The Missouri Historical Society’s See STL Walking Tours hosts walking tours across the city of St. Louis aimed at spreading awareness on the city’s history, architecture, art & culture and more. Other organizations that are making an impact in the arts and culture world of St. Louis are Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and Cbabi Bayoc and Beloved Streets of America who have started a national campaign to clean up streets named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Smaller non-profit St. Louis theater companies that are doing great community and/or youth work include That Uppity Theater Company, HEAL Center for the Arts, 50 Roses Foundation, St. Lou Fringe, COCA, Metro Theater Company, COCA, St. Louis Theatre Community Task Force, Missouri Arts Council, St. Louis Artworks, and Story Stitchers.
St. Louis is a town that has incorporated immigrants from all over the world who bring their traditions and cultures. They are all brought together to form a diverse and stimulating town that blends different cultures. Art and culture in St. Louis is a collective of vibrant affairs showcased in the various art galleries and theatres.
Lori. (2021). Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Retrieved from Spiritual Travels: https://www.spiritualtravels.info/spiritual-sites-around-the-world/north-america/st-louis-churches/basilica/
Przybylek, S. (2021, 11 27). Communication & Self-Expression Through Art. Retrieved from Study.com: https://study.com/academy/lesson/communication-self-expression-through-art.html
Rabang, I. (2018, December 7). Art and its impact on society. Retrieved from Bold Business: https://www.boldbusiness.com/society/art-and-its-impact-on-society-art-districts-revitalizing-communities/
Titi, G. (2019). Art as a means of communication. Retrieved from Steemit: https://steemit.com/art/@goodness4titi/art-as-a-means-of-communication-a3aa23584a0cc
Torenberg, E. (2018). What makes a great community? Retrieved from QUORA: https://www.quora.com/What-makes-a-great-community
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D.
What is ethnodrama? I learned from Anna Deveare Smith. She is the mother of ethnodrama for me. She goes into communities post-conflict and talks to people who were up close and personal to the conflict, who have studied similar conflicts, who have historical knowledge on communities, and who hail from different cultural backgrounds in the community.
She turns each interview into a monologue, mimics how each person speaks and acts, and then performs each monologue back-to-back in one comprehensive text that now captures multiple perspectives on the issue at hand.
The first time I engaged high school students in reading and watching one of her ethnodramas, Fires in the Mirror, they feigned disinterest. I started the video of the first monologue and half of them put their heads down, seemingly not watching at all.
Fires in the Mirror captures the perspectives of many people in and outside of Brooklyn in the 1990’s after a black child was pinned to a wall and killed after the driver of an orthodox Jewish rabbi ran a red light in the rain. Hours later, a retaliatory death occurred of a Jewish young rabbi scholar, most likely at the hands of black youth egged on by their elders. Racial riots erupted as neither Jews nor Blacks felt they received needed justice.
After each monologue, I asked students – what did this person say happened? Heads still on their arms, glancing sideways at the TV screen, hands started to go up. They had heard every word.
I kept going. By the time we got to the version of the incident from the perspective of an adolescent who almost seemed to confess to the murder of the Jewish scholar, their eyes were glued to the screen, and they were helping one another fill in more details to what the young man had shared.
This simple exercise became a month-long student-driven inquiry into the social, economic and political situation in Brooklyn that had led to this event and to the racial riots.
Sure, I had to design carefully, but I was able to help them layer in more perspectives as we went along. Historical, media, personal. A broader data set. And with each new perspective layered in, new opportunities for inquiring into the cultural fabric of Brooklyn that was recreating cross-race rioting emerged. New opportunities to explore the collective action that was steadily debunking some of the myths about racial groups while advancing community-centered solutions also emerged.
This broader array of perspectives has become a central element of our Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ change-management approach. If companies and schools and non-profits and governments want to understand how to position themselves to deeply impact communities for the better, they have to learn how to tap into a broader array of perspectives.
A set of perspectives that are what other people say about the community won’t suffice. The set of perspectives needs to be situated in the cultural fabric of the community, in the voices, and the lives, and the circumstances, in the regular meetings and the assets and the solutions of the people in neighborhoods.
For too long, we have viewed communities as “disadvantaged.” Yes. There are histories of discrimination that have removed resources like housing, finances, education, employment, transportation, and health care from black and brown communities especially but white communities also. Yes. Cities have given companies eminent domain rights to take land and housing from communities already impacted by generations of such acts. Yes. These histories have fragmented neighborhoods, families, and access to resources.
Yet in the midst of these histories, communities have risen every time. They have become even more resourceful and more innovative. So to have an impact, we need simply to join those who have been making an impact for generations. Communities already know how discrimination works against them. Communities also know how they have been working through collective action and a host of community-centered businesses and organizations to fix what has been broken for generations.
The expertise we need to rebuild our organizations to be more equitable is the expertise of those on the front lines of change-making. When we are serious about making change in and through our companies, schools, non-profits, and governments, we join the teams of the many who have been making change for generations.
It is exciting to learn how people, companies, schools and organizations have been rebuilding products, services, partnerships and communication practices for generations. It is exciting to remove our assumptions about ourselves as the central experts (even if we are on the front lines of making change) and to create opportunities for mutual sharing and learning together about how we become a part of the solution together.
That is the work of Community Allies. We help sectors come together and create spaces of learning with others in different areas of our industries who have been making change for generations. We help sectors learn together how to honor one another, everything each person, industry/sector knows and does, so you can provide products and services that communities are asking you to design in the service of their solutions and everyone’s collective expertise.
We help you advance the kind of awareness raising and advocacy we need from one another so that histories of discrimination can stop because we all are doing our part. We all are a part of needed solutions that create a whole new set of trajectories for wealth building and community stability this world and all of our industries and schools desperately need.
Building Healthy Work and Everyday Communities: The Sound Bites of Our Times and How They Work Against Us
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D.
In our Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ workshops, we deconstruct how we can avoid falling prey to sound bites and histories of political messaging that frame people through deficit lenses, pit us against one another, and recreate the same inequalities. Uninformed sound bites about key issues of our times keep us pointing fingers at one another and operating out of fear that people who don’t think like us are evil or against us. (i.e. Defund the police in most contexts does not mean get rid of police. It means distribute resources such that a broader array of people in social services can help prevent community violence so police have more support and less crime to manage.)
This does not mean that we give up what matters to us. It means that we learn how to hear what matters to others and why. It means we listen for where and how what we all care about is situated in ineffective labels for the issues of our times. We engage a systematic method for how to build relationships and research processes that help us realize and accomplish together our mutual goals.
For example, you may be for or against masks. If you are for masks, you might label people who don’t wear them as “anti-maskers”. You may think of them as uninformed and you may think of them as putting you and your children at risk.
When given opportunities to meet a host of people who don’t wear masks and to learn their why, you just might find out they too want to save lives, and they too have been tracking with scientific and medical data that is worth examining together.
There will be a need to explore the different kinds of data you and others are drawing on to make your case for or against masks. And a grounding principle we follow is that every data set is marked by specific schools of thought and biases that need unpacking. So we also explore those biases and how the labeling of the data itself (I.e. medical = accurate and scientific and reliable, non-biased; anecdotal = non-systematic and uninformed and biased) can hinder us from the kind of relationship building that would enable us together to see solutions right in front of our eyes.
When we explore masks from a broader data set that includes our stories, recognizes different schools of thought, and a broader array of perspectives than just for or against masks, a fuller richer picture emerges - of COViD, of the pros and cons of masks, of disease, its spreading patterns, and its broader social and economic impacts that also need accounting for as we together address it.
When we step outside of our political camps and open ourselves to this kind of learning stance, a broader array of approaches to addressing COViD and other diseases while also addressing social and economic impacts becomes more apparent.
That is what ethnodrama does for us. It gives us a fuller data set, from a wider array of sources and schools of thought, including our own stories, on the many facets of any issue. We receive a fuller historical, cultural and current picture of any issue we are facing and can think on multiple layers towards needed solutions.
Companies, schools, universities, governments, and non-profits that take the time to build this kind of cultural orientation through investments in healthy team community building systematic methods like these find themselves on the cutting edge of innovative solutions to our most pressing issues, products and services of our times.
They are beginning to contribute to relationship building among colleagues that decreases division and increases an openness to those who don’t look, talk or think like us as incredibly valuable to our own growth and abilities to impact communities with what we offer.
They are having an easier time paving the way for people in their companies and schools to seek out more diverse talent and to listen for how that diversity adds value to their lives and to their department and organization’s success.
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D.
When DEI work is shallow or ineffective, it is sometimes because we ask people to explore their biases without helping them situate those biases within historical and cultural contexts.
The result is often that judgment, blame and shame and moral superiority are what come to define our learning processes and our relationships.
Our media and our political parties make some financial and branding profit on keeping this spirit of shame, blame, judgment and moral superiority in operation. When we buy into the camps they provide us - we support and even begin to own our own national divisions.
It becomes easier to just not like one another instead of committing to investing in the relationship building that would help us tap into what we all know. When we tap into our collective knowledge, we together become a part of the urgent solutions we need to some of our most pressing problems.
Our political camps feed us moral superiority, based in our version of religion or family values or science or intellect – as though we don’t share these sources as common starting places for our values. When we stick to our political camps - dialogue becomes silenced and we limit our views of others to simplified statements about one another that keep us from exploring why other people think the way they do. In the process, we also limit ourselves from exploring the political sound bites that have become leading ideas about current issues and about people that may be totally inaccurate.
We can end up getting in our own ways of exploring together where we have very common values. The moment we orient towards what we have in common, a host of new non-binary solutions begin to appear. We begin to deconstruct some of the messaging behind the sound bites we have received.
Our ethnodramatic process provides us a helpful roadmap for how to step outside of our divisive camps and into really good conversation about even better solutions that produce even better outcomes for our shared values.
We say Honoring Stories because as we learn together how to honor one another’s stories, we all learn to shift away from our way as the only way forward. Our insistence that others do what we say is best won’t be the reigning orientation of how we advance progress together.
Our Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ workshops take us through a process of building collaboration situated in healthy relationship-building. Teams practice and observe how their communication and market research processes contribute to advancing trust and new ideas for product and service solutions that communities want and need.
These solutions include better products, better communication processes, better relationships with a broader array of clients, and pathways into hiring a more diverse employee base.
Our ethnodramatic process helps us listen to the heart of one another’s real values and goals for our nation.
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.