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Hanging of the Green gets multicultural touch
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Leslie Pedraza dances with the Ballet Mexicano de Lupita Sosa on Sunday evening at the annual Christmas is One Language concert at First United Methodist Church. - photo by Tom Reed

The setting was a well-established Gainesville First United Methodist Church and the occasion a traditional Hanging of the Green ceremony.

But much of everything else surrounding the austere observance marking the imminent arrival of Christ captured the sights and sounds of Hall County’s less-entrenched but growing global community.

From Irish jigs to traditional Chinese dancing, Sunday night’s 13th annual Christmas is One Language concert was no ordinary holiday celebration.

“When you walk around Gainesville, probably often times you’ve run into and seen people that don’t look like they’re from here or speak a language you cannot understand,” said Enrique Montiel of the Gainesville Multicultural Committee, one of the event’s co-sponsors.

“These are people we have the blessing of being around us, including me. We’ve come here to live in the community, share our culture and just be part of it.”

The event featured participants from a variety of faiths and cultural backgrounds, all celebrating the season in songs, readings and symbols.

Terry Walton, senior pastor at Gainesville First United, told the large crowd that filled the sanctuary, “I can think of no better way to begin this season than being reminded of our world.

“There are ways in which we are similar, but we are all different. And this service reminds us of the beauty of God’s creation. This God that brought a baby into the world has created us all different.”

Performers included St. John Baptist Church’s Angelic Voices, the Drake School of Irish Dancers, Brenau University Chamber Ensemble, Chinese dancer Quig Cao, Ballet Mexicano de Lupita Sosa, McEver Road United Methodist Church singers, St. Michael Catholic Church choir and The Norman Brothers.

Also, making his debut at the event was guitarist-singer Dr. Tennent Slack, a Gainesville anesthesiologist.

Slack, speaking before the service, said he thought the concert was “a great idea.” “So much of Christmas presentations are sorta the same,” he said. “I think the diversity is great.”

The event also featured international students from Brenau University as greeters and international foods as post-event refreshments.

Sue Campbell, a church member, brought her two daughters, Emmie, 3, and Savannah, 13, and Savannah’s best friend, Shelby, 13, to the event.

She said she enjoys the ceremony’s international touch.

“It definitely helps in the education of our children in the way that the Lord would want us to conduct ourselves in this season,” Campbell said.

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