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Gainesville concert marks start of holiday season
'Christmas is One Language' held at First United Methodist Church
Lupita Sosa-Smith of the Mexican Folkloric Ballet carries a participates in the Magic Mexican Posada Sunday during the 14th annual “Christmas is One Language” concert at Gainesville First United Methodist Church. The “posada,” which means a place to spend night, is a Mexican re-enactment of Mary and Joseph looking for lodging on their way to Bethlehem. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

From the posada to the piñata, Christmas got a colorful and cultural touch Sunday night.

Children, tall and small, lined up to bludgeon the decoration with a stick in a festival wrapping up the posada, or re-enactment of the biblical story of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem for a census.

The audience that packed into Gainesville First United Methodist Church on Thompson Bridge Road cheered them on with hand claps and shouts, as La Perla Serrana Mariachi Band provided musical accompaniment.

For many, it wasn’t the usual, solemn start to the Christmas season.

But this wasn’t an ordinary event.

The 14th annual “Christmas is One Language” serves as a blending of cultural, Christmas traditions, with musical performances, dances and other festive displays.

“This community is really a melting pot of cultures,” said Enrique Montiel, chairman and founder of the Gainesville Multicultural Committee that organizes the concert. “This is what prompted us 14 years ago to start (the event).

“We can find Koreans, Chinese, Mexicans, French, Germans — just to mention a few of the nationalities we have in the community.”

This year’s event departed from the norm, with organizers promising more of a “production” with the posada.

The posada featured brightly costumed re-enactors from the Mexican Folkloric Ballet as they ventured to several houses seeking a place to stay.

They eventually are allowed through an entrance and that’s when the celebration starts.

The ballet members danced to the music of the mariachi band, getting loud applause from the audience when they finished.
Sunday’s event also featured the Atlanta Korean Chamber Choir, Colombian soloist Luz Piedad Lopez, St. John Baptist Church Angelic Voices and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Choir.

“This is an award-winning program,” Montiel told the audience, noting an accolade received from the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C.

Following the event was a potluck tasting of international foods, such as Vietnamese dumplings and South American pastries, plus American foods, like barbecue and sweet potato pie.