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Diversity and Inclusion

DEC employee Rachel Systak working at a lake
"I absolutely love my career with DEC
and I am fortunate to get to work not only
with the natural resources I want to conserve,
but the people in our communities
who value those resources as well."
- Rachel Sysak,
Division of Marine Resources

Since its inception 50 years ago, the mission of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect, sustain, and, when possible, improve our environment is a cause that has united all cultures and heritages. Environmental awareness and stewardship play an integral role in many of our cultures, and the pursuit of ensuring a clean, healthy environment now and into the future remains a goal of our agency on a professional and personal level.

DEC is dedicated to providing a work environment that fully supports and fosters diversity and inclusion. DEC's mission of protecting the environment can only be successfully accomplished when we embrace the diversity, strengths, and talents of all our employees.

DEC Celebrates All Cultures and Traditions

Cultural Celebrations

December brings many cultural celebrations. This year many of us may celebrate differently, but hopefully, the holiday spirit remains alive. Through the years, DEC staff have built a beautiful tradition of sharing our collective kindness, caring, and compassion with others during the holiday season. Some cultural celebrations are listed below. Happy Holidays to all!

Christmas

One of the most widely known December holidays, various Christmas traditions are celebrated around the world. While Americans celebrate with Christmas trees, visits from Santa Claus, and dreams of snowy landscapes, Christmas falls during Australia's summer, where it is popular to go camping or to the beach over the holiday. Some Australians decorate a "Christmas Bush," a native Australian tree with small green leaves and flowers that turn red during the summer.

In England, Christmas traditions are similar to those in the United States, but instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus, children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas. In Iceland, the capital city Reykjavik turns into a winter wonderland with its Christmas market and for the children, there is not one but thirteen Santas, known as Yule Lads. One arrives each night in the thirteen days before Christmas, leaving small gifts in shoes left on windowsills.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt. Those who took part in the re-dedication witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted oil to keep the menorah's candles burning for a single day, the flames continued to burn for eight nights.

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. Celebrations revolve around lighting the menorah. On each of the holiday's eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. The ninth candle, called the shamash ("helper"), is used to light the others. Typically, blessings are recited and traditional Hanukkah foods such as potato pancakes (latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are fried in oil. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with dreidels and exchanging gifts.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. He founded the U.S., a cultural organization, and started to research African "first fruit" (harvest) celebrations. From there, he combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations to form the basis of Kwanzaa.

The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, families gather, and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, then one of the seven principles, values of African culture, is discussed. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day takes place on December 26. Only celebrated in a few countries, the holiday originated in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were opened and their content distributed, a tradition that still happens in some areas. It was also the day servants were traditionally given the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Boxing Day has now become a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries. In England, soccer matches and horse races often take place on Boxing Day. The Irish refer to the holiday as St. Stephen's Day, and they have their own tradition called hunting the wren, in which people fasten a fake wren to a pole and parade it through town. The Bahamas celebrate Boxing Day with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo.

Omisoka

Ōmisoka, New Year's Eve, is considered the second-most important day in Japanese tradition as it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year's Day, the most important day of the year. Families gather on Ōmisoka for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon, a tradition based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next.

At midnight, many visit shrines or temples for Hatsumōde. Shinto shrines prepare amazake (a fermented rice drink) to pass out to crowds and most Buddhist temples have large cast bells that are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires believed to cause human suffering.

Pancha Ganapati

The Family Festival of Giving: Pancha Ganapati is a modern winter holiday full of family-centered happenings, but with five days of gifts for the kids, not one. From December 21 to 25 Hindus worship Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed Lord of culture and new beginnings. Family members work to mend past mistakes and bring His blessings of joy and harmony into five realms of their life, a wider circle each day: family, friends, associates, culture, and religion.

New Year

In Ecuador, families dress a straw man in old clothes on December 31. The straw man represents the old year. The family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults. At midnight, they burn the straw man, in hopes that their faults will disappear with him.

Those in Hong Kong pray to the gods and ghosts of their ancestors, asking that they will fulfill their wishes for the next year. Priests read aloud the names of every living person at the celebration and attach a list of the names to a paper horse and set it on fire. The smoke carries the names up to the gods and the living will be remembered.

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, many children dress in new clothes to celebrate and people carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon, the Chinese symbol of strength. According to legend, the dragon hibernates most of the year, so people throw firecrackers to keep the dragon awake.

Resources: (links leave DEC website)

https://worldstrides.com/blog/2015/12/december-holidays-around-the-world/

https://www.learningliftoff.com/9-winter-holidays-around-the-world/

https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5071

DEC Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Plan

DEC's Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Plan (PDF) for Fiscal Years 2020-2025 outlines our priorities and goals as we continue to cultivate and promote a diverse and inclusive culture where employees feel welcomed and motivated to do their best.

These goals and priorities reflect our commitment to support DEC diversity programs; promote continuous learning and discussion of diversity and inclusion topics; recruit qualified candidates of different backgrounds, experiences, and talents; provide internal developmental opportunities; and assess what more we can do to nurture a supportive and inclusive work environment.

Diversity Resources and Links

Resources include articles, podcasts, and blogs that present the perspective of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), Latino/a, and Latinx, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and other identities (LGBTQ+) and their experiences in the outdoors and in nature.


More about Diversity and Inclusion:

  • Native American Heritage Month - DEC observe's Native American Heritage Month in November as a time to reflect on our relationships with our indigenous friends and neighbors here in New York and beyond. New York's history and culture are intertwined with indigenous peoples' histories and cultures. We acknowledge that the land on which we live and work is the ancestral territory of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Unkechaug, Shinnecock, Montauk, Delaware, Ramapough, Munsee, and Mohican peoples. In fact, the colonial era capital of the Mohican people is located on Papscanee Island, just a few miles south of DEC headquarters.
  • Hispanic Heritage Month - DEC is proud to observe Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 in honor of the history, culture, and influence of past and present generations of Hispanic New Yorkers.
  • Black History Month - Biographies
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