Discover Christmas Trees and Christmas Traditions From Around the World

By Michael San Gabino |

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The Grand Tree in Christmas Around The World and Holidays of Lights at The Museum of Science and Industry (Photo: J.B. Spector)

Christmas trees have been a symbol of joy and peace for generations. Even during World War II, the sight of a Christmas tree provided hope for many Americans. In 1942, the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, decided to display one tree as a tribute to the Allied nations. The tree was redecorated by different community groups each night.

Now in its 75th year, the Christmas Around the World exhibit at MSI has become one of Chicago’s favorite holiday traditions. The annual exhibit now boasts over 50 Christmas trees that are decorated to celebrate different cultures and faiths. The trees encircle a 45-feet-tall Grand Tree, containing 30,000 lights.

Volunteer groups throughout the Chicago area and northwest Indiana continue to decorate the trees. “One of the most surprising things to me about this exhibit is learning the volunteers’ stories,” Jeff Buonomo, a MSI curator, noted. “Just 8 years ago, one family with adopted children from Russia noticed there was not a Russian tree. Now, the family works with other families with adopted children to decorate the Russian tree.”

Buonomo also said that patrons can expect to see 3 new trees this year that honor Assyria, Australia, and Nigeria. He continued, “We can see through these trees how we’re different, but more so, how we all have similar celebrations this time of year.”

The museum also features cultural performances throughout the duration of the exhibit, highlighting dance and musical performances from cultural groups around the Chicago area. On Sunday, December 10, dance and musical groups representing Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico/Central America, Spain, and Greece performed in the museum’s auditorium.

Watch the video below to see excerpts of these performances featuring the Children's Choir and Marimba Ensemble of Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary, McNulty Irish Dancers, Knights of Lithuania Dancers, Flamenco Chicago Dance Studio, and Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society.