Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

All around the world, people are preparing to ring in the New Year in their own special way. In most cultures, people spend the evening wishing for good things in the year ahead. Some will drink champagne, others will make (and quickly break!) resolutions, some will wear a certain color to attract love or money, and others will eat a special dish to bring good fortune all year long.

In my family, my dad follows the New Year's tradition of cooking up some steaming Hoppin' John Soup and sometimes a batch of cooked cabbage on New Year's Day for a little extra luck. Other good southerners may substitute collard greens or kale for the cabbage. In Spain, people traditionally wish for luck by eating 12 grapes on New Year's Eve, one for each chime as the clock strikes midnight. This tradition is also carried on in many Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico. Ecuador, however, has it's own unique celebration every December 31st.

La Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción in Cuenca, Ecuador

I had the pleasure of visiting Ecuador when I was in high school. I participated in a 5 week study abroad program arranged by one of my high school Spanish teachers. I stayed with a host family and learned about the local culture. During a discussion about holiday celebrations, my friend Hernan described how some people in Ecuador start the new year fresh by burning effigies that symbolize undesireable things from the past year. Often these straw dolls are adorned with masks of politicians or other infamous popular figures. The word on the street in Cuenca is that President Correa is the most sought after mask this year.

Night-time view of Cuenca.

How will you celebrate the New Year? Does your family have any special traditions? However you choose to ring in 2010, I hope it is a happy and prosperous year for all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Aside from writing this blog, another part of my job is to facilitate a program called the Bilingual Café. Every other Saturday, native English speakers and native Spanish speakers gather to help each other improve conversational skills in their second language. Each meeting, I usually prepare several activities around a central theme. This past Saturday we talked about holiday traditions.

For the English speakers working on improving their Spanish, we watched this clip about a Hanukkah (Jánuca) celebration in Argentina. Even if you can't understand the video entirely, it is still quite interesting to see Latin American culture and Jewish culture meet on the Boca Juniors soccer field!

The Spanish speakers wishing to improve their English watched a short clip about Kwanzaa. This video was even informational for the native English speakers since it explains the 7 principles celebrated on the 7 respective days of Kwanzaa, celebrated from December 26th to January 1st.

The discussion about Christmas traditions sparked some interesting conversation. One of the attendees had recently arrived from Latin America and had never experienced Christmas time in the United States before. The rest of us had to explain the concepts of mistletoe, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and why poinsettia is prounounced by some people without the last "i." I am constantly amazed by the way Bilingual Café attendees can deepen their understanding of other people's culture just by trying to have a simple conversation. Although we may have been discussing some silly details, the laughter we shared sent us out into the snowy afternoon with a little more warmth.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Korean Culture Day

The Central Library's Young People's Department has teamed up with the Lexington Korean School to present Korean Culture Day tomorrow. The school's students and teachers will present traditional art, storytelling, music,and dance. Displays and activities begin at 11am and the event will culminate in a special performance in the theater from 2-3pm. All ages are welcome but reservations for the performance are recommended. Call 231-5532 to book your seats!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


On the evening of December 11th, Jews around the world will be lighting the first of 8 candles on the hanukiyah to celebrate Hanukkah. Though not a major holy day like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish families may choose to celebrate the occasion in their homes by cooking potato latkes, playing dreidel, exchanging gifts, and reciting blessings each night for the new candles that are lit. In Lexington, some members of the Jewish community (and anyone else who wants to gather to hear Hanukkah songs and popular Israeli standards) will be celebrating the 5th annual Hanukkah Night at Natasha's Bistro on Tuesday, December 15th at 7:30.
If you're in the neighborhood, you should stop by the Central Library's Young People's Department on the 2nd floor to see in person the wonderful multicultural display they have put together for the December holidays!

Also, for a glimpse at how Jews from all over the world vary their Hanukkah celebrations according to their culture, check out this Sun-Sentinel article:

Lastly, I leave you today with an entertaining video: Happy Hanukkah - flash mob style!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Human Rights

Every year on December 10th, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates another anniversary. This year marks the document's 61st birthday. The United Nations adopted the charter in 1948. It is the first document that established common standards of human rights for all nations and all peoples. Last year, the 60th Anniversary was celebrated by UN members around the world with much fanfare.

1st Article of the UDHR, illustrated by Brazilian artist Octavio Roth for the 60th Anniversary

This year, you can celebrate in the comfort of your own home by checking out these great children's books based on the Declaration: Every Human Has Rights and We Are All Born Free.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day and all that follows

Buenos días and welcome to December! Aside from the well-known religious holidays of Christmas and Chanukkah and the cultural celebration of Kwanzaa, December is full of many other note-worthy celebrations. Throughout this month I will be exploring the important days that fall on the calendars of many different cultures around the world and, when possible, talk about how they will be celebrated here in Lexington.

Today, our thoughts turn to World AIDS Day. In 1988 the World Health Organization established the first World AIDS Day celebration in recognition of the need for education and awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic that affects every region of the world. Today the World AIDS Campaign is the leading organizer of the international event. This year's theme is Universal Access and Human Rights. Organizers and partner agencies of the event strongly believe that access for all to HIV prevention treatment care and support is a critical part of human rights.

If you pay attention to the news at all, you know that HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic. As the following map with the latest numbers from the WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS shows, 33.4 million people worldwide are living with HIV.

Locally, AIDS Volunteers of Lexington (AVOL) is doing it's part to make sure fewer people in Central Kentucky become a statistic. If you want to show your support for AVOL's work, raise awareness about the global epidemic or pay tribute to a friend or family member affected by the disease you can take part in a community Candlelight Vigil this evening starting at 5:30pm. Participants can pick up candles at Third Street Stuff, Starbucks (Main St.), Tin Roof, Common Grounds, and Dunkin' Donuts (Main and Rose) and march together to Phoenix Park. On Saturday, you can give to a good cause and have a great time at AVOL's annual Red Ribbon Ball .

Lexington Public Library will be paying tribute to World AIDS Day by displaying panels from the AIDS Quilt all week. If you need refuge from the cold during the vigil or just want to admire a piece of the worlds largest ongoing community arts project in the world, stop in the Central Library to see the quilts hanging from the 3rd floor and in the 2nd floor atrium.

For more information about World AIDS Day celebrations or to download promotional materials visit , or

Monday, November 23, 2009

Plethora of Polyglots

On Saturday, November 14th I attended an inspiring luncheon. Last fall, Central Christian Church was awarded a grant from the Virginia Hagan Family Foundation to conduct a study about the existing English as a Second Language (ESL) services in Lexington and how they could be improved. With the help of many community researchers and collaboration among many community organizations like the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Fayette County Public Schools, the University of Kentucky, and Lexington Public Library; ESL teachers and students were surveyed to answer important foundational questions such as: Who are the teachers? Who are the students? Where do they live? How can ESL services be improved?

No research of this kind has ever been conducted in Lexington before. The results give us a fascinating glimpse into the diversity that lives and breathes in our community. Data gathered from FCPS students in the ESL program alone showed that in less than a year's time, over 20 new languages were introduced to Lexington. This information does not even account for single adults, families with children younger than 5, or children who are not enrolled in ESL but still speak another language at home.

Another organization that provided valuable statistical data to the study is Kentucky Refugee Ministries. KRM is a voluntary refugee resettlement office in Lexington. As a partner in the international resettlement process, over the last 10 years they have introduced almost 1000 new members to our community from over 30 different countries. Many of the refugees often speak more than one language.

LFUCG Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Isabel Gereda Taylor took all of the data collected to the LFUCG Division of Planning to create a visual picture of where non-native English speakers live in our community. The resulting image is astounding!

Diversity truly is everywhere in our community! Unfortunately, the current availability of ESL classes just does not meet the demand. The reveal of the assessment's findings on the 14th was merely a starting point for our community's journey to improve ESL services in Lexington. If you want to volunteer to help execute the improvements identified by the 80 community members who attended the luncheon like better promoting the services that already exist or finding more funding for future endeavors, please contact Isabel Gereda Taylor at or call 859.258.3824.

If you would like to volunteer to help someone improve their English, I will be facilitating an English Conversation Group starting in January.

If you have a few hours to spare to help someone learn English and open up many new doors for themselves and their families, please contact me at or 859.231.5514.

To see the full assessment report from the 14th, visit Central Christian Church's website.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


There is a community where hundreds of refugees have resettled from at least 30 different countries to start a promising new life for their families, bringing pieces of their unique cultures along with them. There is a town so diverse that students from the public schools go home to families speaking over 50 different languages other than English. Every year in that city, thousands of people participate in a month of daily fasting during the Islamic religious holiday Ramadan while thousands more fast for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. In the same community, citizens who have disabilities lobbied for more input in urban planning and development and got a commission dedicated to the task in response. This city has also communicated its commitment to diversity by enacting an ordinance to protect people who may face discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Would you be surprised to learn that if you’re reading this post, then you probably live in this community? I just described Lexington, KY.

My name is Lindsay Mattingly and I am the Multicultural Liaison of the Lexington Public Library. Part of my job as a member of our Outreach Services team is to educate the community-at-large about the diversity that can be found right here in Lexington. And what better way is there to share information with a whole community of people than through the marvel of modern technology that is the blog? I will be posting interviews, videos and writing my own observations about diversity in Lexington. I want to highlight groups, organizations, and individuals whose contributions to the richness of our community are often overlooked. For example, have you read the book Lexington, Kentucky by Gerald L. Smith that chronicles the history of African Americans in our town? Have you ever looked through some of the unique histories stored in the Kentucky Room on the 3rd floor of the Central Library? Lexington has always had a lot more to offer than just basketball and horses! Though we are small, we are a vibrant and diverse community. It’s time to share that with the world.