Holiday Love from DJA

I wasn’t raised celebrating holidays but fell in love with them as an adult. Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness allowed such mixed blessings in my childhood. I was enveloped by the religion’s most earnest expressions of brotherly love. Worldly pursuits are unimportant to Witnesses; therefore, everyone around me was either poor or living modestly while abundant in faith, love, and generosity. My community was known to me, and I never doubted my place among them. Concurrently, I attended public school and had all the associated social pressures. I watched other kids make Christmas lists for Santa, overheard stories about lavish quinceañeras, and I stepped out of class and into the hallway each day during the pledge of allegiance. I had always been on the outside–until I jumped in with both feet!
At 38 years old, I was a new mother and wanted my son, Shiloh, to have the fullest array of cultural experiences possible. I wanted him to have a “normal” childhood, different from my own. Consistent with my interculturalist background, I made a conscious choice for us to celebrate a variety of holidays and commit to discovering and exploring the cultural stories behind them. Every year when Shiloh was younger, we would stand in long lines at shopping malls to sit on Santa’s lap—rotating from white Santas to Black Santas for range in our photo collection. We would have movie nights re-watching Elf or Miracle on 34th Street—for hours, laughing or crying, respectively. We’ve spent Kwanzaa in New Orleans at BMike’s art studio, where we participated in drum circles with local elders and practiced quiet contemplation during the spiritual and physical centering of Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan. This year, we educated ourselves about the origin and meaning of Diwali and carried forward the beautiful thread of light into Hanukkah. 

Shiloh and I

Shiloh is now 15, and I have, as is the gift of time, a new perspective. I realize that:

  • Holidays are an excuse to celebrate life and the people I love. Moreover, I need no excuse. If I love you, you know it every day.

  • Marking time is important to the human experience. Think back on your own life—5 years ago, 10, 20. It passes in a flash, and so much of it is blurry in our memories.

  • Holidays become time anchors. Time anchors grow in importance as we age and realize that time is our most precious gift. Treasure it.

  • Holidays force a togetherness that allows for stories to be created. And then the memory and retelling of those stories is what brings us comfort and joy in between the together-filled times. For those who are lonely, stressed, othered in our day-to-day reality, those stories remind us what belonging feels like, and give us hope for the future.

  • Yes, holidays are commercialized but that drum circle, the stories told around the menorah, the expression on my mother’s face when she receives a gift that conveys not wealth but my thought - those are the true gifts to me.

  • My Jehovah’s Witness roots—faith, love, and generosity—are not only transcendent but exactly what I want to call upon most. Each of us likely has something that has been so present in our lives that, even as we grow and change, its meaning and beauty are available to us. They are the fabric of our moral being. 

Our world right now is filled with unnecessary pettiness. Black or white thinking abounds. People are painted as all good or all bad. Picking people apart publicly is rewarded by likes, and likes have become an addictive toxin. We insist on seeing each other as parts to be admonished rather than whole people and stories to be curious about, learn from, and potentially even understand.

Bitterness does not have to be our default.

When fear is winning, obstacles are constant and unbearable, and all systems are breaking down, the most empowering thing we can do is look inside.

The way through and forward is greater than any single one of us.

“Call off the search party, I was inside me all along!”

 - Rebecca Campbell

May your holiday season be filled with the joys of ceremony, rest, and peace; fully aware of and filled with gratitude for each. May you have the opportunity to give, and to be filled with love. The community I’ve found in the myriad places–the homes of family members and new acquaintances, drum circles, prayer and meditation groups, meetings and Zoom calls with colleagues and clients, places of worship and community volunteerism, or even standing with other tired parents and caregivers as we’ve waited our turn for pictures with Santa, those to me are the beautiful ties that bind us. We are not all alike, yet we are all seeking to be seen, recognized, loved, prioritized, and championed. Across religious and spiritual beliefs, geo-political borders, cultural identities, and life experiences, we can bring forward more of what we want in the world. Just as I sought to instill in Shiloh an expansive and love-centric sense of “who we are” and “what we value,” each of us conveys the same important cultural messages in every interaction. Looking back over the years, and ending this tumultuous year, I am sure that faith, love, and generosity are always in season.


Sending warmth and love, lots and lots of love. 

DeEtta and the DJA Team


2024 Holiday Messaging


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DeEtta Jones & Associates (DJA) guides leaders and organizations on a journey that builds capacity, strengthens innovation, and increases organizational performance by creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment.

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