MSI celebrates 75 years of Christmas around the world

The Bonilla Foundation perform in front of the grand tree, Thursday, Nov. 16, during a special preview celebration to kick off the 75th anniversary of the “Christmas Around the World and Holiday Lights” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive. -Spencer Bibbs

Staff Writer

The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., kicked off the holiday season by opening its Christmas Around the World and the Holidays of Light exhibit, Thursday, Nov. 16.

The exhibit showcases more than 50 decorated trees surrounded by a 45-foot-tall “Grand Tree” wrapped in 30,000 twinkling lights.

Guests will be able to view trees demonstrating rich holiday traditions and customs from different countries and cultures as well as hear festive music and watch “snow” fall inside the museum every 30 minutes.

New this year is the addition of three trees to commemorate the 75th year for the exhibit: Assyria, Australia, and Nigeria.

The theme of the Assyrian tree is brotherhood. It includes photos and ornaments that represent khigga, a folk dance in which people form a line by holding hands.

The Australian tree features homemade paper chains, decorations from native Australian fauna and flora, and sheep. Indigenous Australian artists created several of the ornaments.

Traditional holiday decorations are featured on the Nigerian tree such as handmade, multi-colored Nigerian lace fabric and garlands created from black-eyed peas and beaded jewelry.

On Saturday and beyond local cultural groups will perform native dances in the MSI’s Main Auditorium inside the West Pavilion. Performances will take place on Nov. 24-26, Dec. 2-3, 9-10, and 16-17.

A full schedule and times are available at

Christmas Around the World began in 1942 as a United Nations Day salute to the Allies during World War II. A single tree was newly decorated every day for 12 days to represent the countries fighting alongside America during World War II in its first year.

Today, the exhibit has grown to more than 50 trees and displays, offering insight into the holiday customs celebrated by families around the world.

Holidays of Light highlights the holidays that honor light or enlightenment it has been a tradition at MSI for 23 years. It focuses on the traditions of the Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day, and St. Lucia Day and it is located among the trees throughout the MSI’s Main Floor.

Santa will be making visits during Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light. Children can meet Santa on Nov. 24-26, 30; Dec. 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, and 21-23.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light are included in Museum Entry, as are all cultural performances.