“The M.S.I.’s ‘Christmas Around the World’ in 2019,” by S.M. O’Connor

The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light opened at the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry, which I will continue to abbreviate as M.S.I., today, Thursday, November 14, 2019 and will run through Sunday, January 5, 2019 (the twelfth day of Christmas).[1]  The forty-five-foot-tall Grand Tree stands at the dead center of the Grand Rotunda on the Main Level of the M.S.I.’s Central Pavilion.  Nearly sixty Christmas trees and Holidays of Light display boxes radiate out from it around the Grand Rotunda and spiral out into the North Court, East Court, and South Court.  The Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony was held around 11:30 a.m.    

      The Chicago Sinfonietta provided the string quartet that played live music to entertain the staff, volunteers, children, teachers, parents, and journalists who participated in, attended, or reported on the ceremony.  A little after 11:30 a.m., M.S.I. President & C.E.O. David R. Mosena came on stage and delivered some opening remarks. 

      Mr. Mosena said, in part, “The holidays are a particularly wonderful time at MSI because the season gives us all a chance to appreciate all of the communities that make up our wonderful city.  It remains an honor to showcase the beauty of Chicago’s diversity by celebrating the cultures and traditions of more than 50 countries under one roof. I am amazed that what we enjoy today started from a single tree and has grown over the years to represent so much of the world.  And this year, we mark the 25th anniversary of Holidays of Light, which honors those holidays celebrating light and enlightenment from around the world.  I know that I speak for the entire Museum, when I say that we truly love being part of Chicago’s holiday tradition. But the trees and displays you see here wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and passion from the more than 1,000 volunteers from cultural organizations throughout Chicago.”

Third graders from The Montessori School of Englewood stood on stage with Mosena and on his cue gave the count-down before the over 45,000 twinkling lights that illuminate the Grand Tree turned on.  The schoolchildren wore “Holiday Together” t-shirts.  The same slogan appeared on a few of the large Christmas tree ornaments on the Grand Tree. There were more schoolchildren who sat on the floor in the roped-off area (enclosed by stanchions) around the stage, and yet more children who stood outside that area.  Artificial snow falls every half hour in the Grand Rotunda and it fell for the first time (aside from an earlier test) after the lights came on, to the delight of the children.

      This is the seventy-seventh annual Christmas Around the World festival and the twenty-fifth annual Holidays of Light festival.  Molex, a local company headquartered in Lisle, Illinois, is the sponsor of the 77th annual Christmas Around the World festival and 25th annual Holidays of Light festival.  The Members Holiday Breakfast on Saturday, November 16, 2019 is sold out.

Figure 1 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: The Chicago Sinfonietta provided the string quartet that played live music to entertain the staff, volunteers, children, teachers, parents, and journalists who participated in, attended, or reported on the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony. 

Figure 2 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: At the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, November 14, 2019, M.S.I. President & C.E.O. David R. Mosena gave opening remarks.  Then he guided 3rd graders from The Montessori School of Englewood through a countdown before the Grand Tree’s lights came on.

Figure 3 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: Over 45,000 twinkling lights illuminate the Grand Tree at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World festival. This is how the Grand Rotunda looked when the Grand Tree’s twinkling lights came on at the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, November 14, 2019.

Figure 4 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the Grand Rotunda looked seconds after the Grand Tree’s twinkling lights came on at the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, November 14, 2019.

Figure 5 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the Grand Tree looked from the Main Level of the Grainger Court (East Court), also known as the Transportation Gallery.

Figure 6 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the Grand Tree looked from the exhibit Chemistry on the Balcony level of Farrell Family Court (South Court) in the Central Pavilion.

Figure 7 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the Grand Tree looked from the physics exhibit Science Storms on the Balcony level of Allstate Court (West Court) in the Central Pavilion.  The Junkers Ju-87R-2 Stuka dive-bomber can be seen hanging from the ceiling of the Transportation Gallery, which takes up the entirety of Grainger Court (East Court).

Figure 8 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the Grand Tree looked from the biology exhibit YOU! The Experience on the Balcony level of Rosenwald Court (North Court) in the Central Pavilion.

Figure 9 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is how the Grand Tree looked at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light last year on January 6, 2018.

Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This video is about the decoration of the Japanese Christmas Tree for Christmas Around the World in 2016.

      Hundreds of volunteers decorated the trees.  The Christmas trees represent Armenia, Assyria, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Native America, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, the United States of America, and Wales, as well as the charity SocialWorks. Note that in some of these countries, Christians are a distinct minority and also it is really only the Christians of Northern Europe, specifically Germans, who had a tradition of bringing a pine tree indoors as part of Christmas celebrations and the German royal family who took the British throne with George I who brought this tradition to England. 

The Grand Tree in Christmas Around The World and Holidays of Lights at The Museum of Science and Industry Figure 10 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Trees and displays are decorated by hundreds of volunteers from Illinois and Indiana.

Figure 11  Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Christmas tree in the North Court, seen on Thursday, November 14, 2019, represents the Kingdom of Thailand.

Figure 12 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Christmas tree, seen on Thursday, November 14, 2019, represents the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Figure 13 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is an Italian crèche located on the Main Floor, near the Red Stairs and the Holiday Shop, at the Museum of Science and Industry.

      As early as 1941, the M.S.I. had a physics demonstration called “The Science Behind Santa,” but the M.S.I. began hanging flags and celebrating Christmas Around the World during the Second Great World War in support of the United Nations (then an alliance against the Axis Powers) in 1942.  The M.S.I. added an ancillary festival, Holidays of Light, bringing attention to Chinese New Year, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saint Lucia Day, and Shogatsu in 1994. Erin Okamoto Protsman wrote two books about Christmas Around the World: Season of Celebrating: A Cookbook From the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” Festivals, published by the M.S.I. in 1997 and Traditions: A Guidebook from the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” Festivals, published by Favorite Recipes Press in 1999. 

Holidays of Light

The Museum of Science and Industry stated, “Holidays of Light contain symbolic objects that showcase celebrations honoring light and enlightenment, including Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day, and St. Lucia Day.”

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Figure 14 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Mr. Spector took this picture of the Diwali display case for Holidays of Light on January 5, 2018. 

Figure 15 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Lunar New Year display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Figure 15 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Lunar New Year display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Figure 16 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Hanukkah display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Figure 17 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Visakha Puja Day display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Figure 18 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Ramadan display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Figure 19 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Kwanzaa display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Figure 20 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Saint Lucia Day display case in Rosenwald Court (North Court) is part of the Holidays of Light festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Christmas Mold-A-Rama Keepsakes

Once again, for Christmas Around the World, Mold-A-Rama has installed two additional Mold-A-Rama machines in the M.S.I.  Both micro-factories are on the Main Level in Rosenwald Court (North Court) of the Central Pavilion.  One, located along the west wall near the Blue Stairs, produces red Santa Claus figures.  The other, located along the north wall near the Silver Elevators, produces green Christmas tree souvenirs.

Figure 21 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Mold-A-Rama, located near the Blue Stairs in Rosenwald Court (North Court) produces red Santa Claus figures.

Figure 22 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Mold-A-Rama, located near the Silver Elevators in Rosenwald Court (North Court) produces green Christmas trees.

Free Day

      Monday, November 18, 2019 is the last Illinois Free Day for 2019.  Illinois residents will receive free Museum Entry (general admission), giving them an opportunity to experience Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, as well as dozens of exhibits, at no charge. 

      On Illinois Free Days, Museum Entry is free for residents of the state who show valid proof of residency.  The usual discounts for Chicago residents are not applicable on Illinois Free Days.  Entry is limited to six minor children (which is to say children under the age of eighteen) per accompanying adult.

      Giant Dome Theater movie tickets, Coal Mine, optional U-505 onboard tours, and certain temporary exhibits are not included by Museum Entry, and require separate admission.  Giant Dome Theater movie tickets, Wired to Wear, Makers United, Coal Mine tour tickets, Fab Lab workshop tickets, WOW! Tour tickets, and Future Energy Chicago tickets are $12 each for adults and $9 each for children (ages three-to-eleven).  U-505 Onboard Tour tickets are $18 each for adults and $14 each for children (ages three-to-eleven). 

3rd Annual MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice

    The adults-only night event MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice will be on Friday, December 6, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Tickets to the third annual MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice event are $30.  These tickets cover on-site underground parking, a complimentary drink, and access to exhibits.  This year, the U-505 will be open.  Attendees, who must be twenty-one-years-of-age or over, can explore Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, take part in a scavenger hunt, take selfies with Santa Claus and Krampus, and dance the night away.  There will also be a cash bar.  Food will be available to purchase.  Tickets are non-refundable.  Click here to purchase tickets from Eventbrite.

Figure 23 Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The 3rd annual MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice,  an adults-only event, will be on Friday, December 6, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

A N!ght at The Museum

For a second year in a row, the M.S.I. will partner with Chance the Rapper’s charity SocialWorks for A N!ght at The Museum.  The event, on the night of Thursday, December 19, 2019, benefits the SocialWorks Warmest Winter initiative that focuses on providing direct support to homeless people in Chicago.  Over the course of the night event, thousands of guests, who are asked to donate warming items, will enjoy access to M.S.I.’s exhibits and experiences, live performances, giveaways, and surprises.  Chance the Rapper will appear.  It is the hope of SocialWorks that this year’s event will surpass last year’s event, which hauled in 18,000 warming items distributed between fifteen homeless shelters throughout Chicago.  Tickets are $10 per person or $30 for a pack of four tickets.  To learn more, go to socialworkschi.org; @socialworkschi on Facebook; @socialworks_chi on Instagram; and @socialworks on Twitter.

Figure 24 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This Christmas tree in the North Court, seen on Thursday, November 14, 2019, represents SocialWorks.

Weekend Cultural Performances + Santa Claus

Over fifty local cultural groups will perform live ethnic music and dances in the Main Auditorium in the M.S.I.’s West Pavilion.  Families will also be able to make snow-filled Christmas tree ornaments and snack on seasonal treats.  This is covered by Museum Entry.  With the purchase of an additional advanced ticket, one can get a photo session with Santa Claus on select dates throughout (the rest of) November and December. A full cultural performance and Santa Claus schedule will be posted online at www.msichicago.org/holiday.  

Figure 25 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Weekend musical and dance performances from Chicagoland groups are included with Museum Entry.

Special Exhibits and Holiday Offerings

For a limited time, museum visitors can enjoy a custom donut created exclusively for the M.S.I. by Stan’s Donuts.  The M.S.I. is the only place to get this cinnamon-flavored donut.

Makers United Ornament Workshop

The Makers United Workshop “is getting the holiday edit,” according to a press release.  The M.S.I. stated, “Reconnect with your inner maker and build a color-changing ornament you can only get at MSI.  This beginner-friendly guided workshop teaches guests about circuit-building, and how to find your place in the maker movement with suggestions on how to continue creating in the forms you enjoy most.”  An additional ticket purchase is required. 

Closures and Extended Hours

      The M.S.I. is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. this time of year.  It will be closed on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 28, 2019).  The middle two days of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – Friday, November 29, 2019 and Saturday, November 30, 2019 – it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  On Sunday, December 1, 2019, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Normal hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) will resume on Monday, December 2, 2019 and continue through Friday, December 6, 2019 (so during the workweek or school-week); resume again on Monday, December 9, 2019 and continue through Friday, December 13, 2019; and resume again on Monday, December 16, 2019 and continue through Friday, December 20, 2019. Extended hours (9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) will resume the second and third weekends of December (Saturday, December 7, 2019 and Sunday, December 8, 2019 and Saturday, December 14, 2019 and Sunday, December 15, 2019).  The fourth weekend of December – Saturday, December 21, 2019 and Sunday, December 22, 2019 – the M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  On Monday, December 23, 2019, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  On Tuesday, December 24, 2019 (Christmas Eve), it will be open from 9:30 to 4:00 p.m. because the staff and volunteers will want to get home.  Naturally, it will be closed on Christmas Day (the first Day of Christmas), Wednesday, December 25, 2019.  From Thursday, December 26, 2019 through Monday, December 30, 2019, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  On Tuesday, December 31, 2019 (New Year’s Eve), it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., because the staff and volunteers will want to get home.  It will open late, at 11:00 a.m., on New Year’s Day (Wednesday, January 1, 2020) and close at 5:30 p.m.  From Thursday, January 2, 2020 and Friday, January 3, 2020, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Regular hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) will resume on Saturday, January 4, 2020.  The Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry regularly makes small adjustments to this schedule, so when planning a trip there, check this Webpage and the M.S.I.’s social media for updates. 

EXTENDED HOURS AND EXCEPTIONS

   
Closed Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 28, 2019)
9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Friday, November 29, 2019
Saturday, November 30, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, December 1, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, December 7, 2019
Sunday, December 8, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, December 14, 2019
Sunday, December 15, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Saturday, December 21, 2019
Sunday, December 22, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, December 23, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
(Tuesday, December 24, 2019)
Closed Christmas Day
(Wednesday, December 25, 2019)
9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Thursday, December 26, 2019
Friday, December 27, 2019
Saturday, December 28, 2019
Sunday, December 29, 2019
 Monday, December 30, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. New Year’s Eve
(Tuesday, December 31, 2019)
11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. New Year’s Day
(Wednesday, January 1, 2020)
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, January 2, 2020
Friday, January 3, 2020

      Often formerly stylized as the “Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago” or the “Museum of Science + Industry” the institution is located at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, on the south side of 57th Street, between Lake Shore Drive to the east and Cornell Drive to the west, in the East Hyde Park neighborhood of the Hyde Park Community Area (Community Area #41) on the South Side of Chicago.  

      The Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, also known as the Fine Arts Building, which is the last palace from the White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), still standing in Jackson Park.[2] Thus, the building turned 125 years old last year.  Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912), Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition,  named Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) as Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition and Atwood personally designed the Illinois Central Railroad Station, the Peristyle of the Court of Honor, and the Palace of Fine Arts.

      The façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens.  The neoclassical design Atwood developed for the Palace of Fine Arts combined Roman domes with Ionic Greek columns, statues, and frieze panels.  He borrowed the Central Pavilion’s north portico from a painting of a fanciful art museum by Paul-Albert Besnard (1849-1934) that had won the Prix de Rome. Atwood had two assistants: Alexandre Sandier and Ernest R. Graham (1868-1936).  Sandier had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Besnard.  Graham coordinated much of Atwood’s work on-site, including aspects of the Palace of Fine Arts. 

      The Palace of Fine Arts held art treasures from around the world.  To protect the world’s art treasures, unlike the other palaces of the White City, the Palace of Fine Arts had a “fireproof” brick substructure under its staff superstructure.  This precaution was undertaken because world leaders were nervous about placing precious objects on display in a city that had been rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  The other palaces were made of wood or steel framing clad in a kind of plaster known as “staff.”[3] 

      Initially, the South Park Commission[4] wanted to tear down the Palace of Fine Arts after The Field Museum of Natural History vacated it in 1920, but sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) rallied groups in support of restoring the building. Mrs. Albion Headburg organized 6,000 women to donate funds to restore a small part of the Palace of Fine Arts to show what it could look like. They changed the mind of South Park Commissioners, whereupon the South Park Commission asked voters to approve the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds to finance restoration of the building to serve as a science museum, trade school, sculptural art museum, and convention center. Dr. Charles R. Richards, author of The Industrial Museum and Director of the American Association of Museums, attested to the suitability of the Palace of Fine Arts as the future home of a science museum in 1925.

      Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, founded the Museum of Science and Industry in 1926 through The Commercial Club of Chicago, of which he was a member.  [The Commercial Club of Chicago had earlier sponsored the Plan of Chicago (1909) by Burnham and Edward H. Bennett (1874-1954).] Rosenwald expressed a desire to establish an interactive science museum like Oskar von Miller’s Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.     

      Designing the restoration and reconstruction of Atwood’s staff superstructure and brick substructure fell to the architectural firm employed by the South Park Commission: Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White – principally to Alfred Shaw (1895-1970).  He also designed the Art Moderne interior. Upon the death of Messrs. Probst and White, another firm, Shaw, Naess, and Murphy, undertook completion of the new interior’s design, beginning in January of 1937. The façade and substructure underwent restoration and reconstruction between 1929 and 1931.  When it became apparent $5,000,000 would be insufficient to restore the building, Julius Rosenwald pledged to pay for completion of the project, in addition to his endowment pledge of $3,000,000.

      The M.S.I. opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940, with the first opening ceremony on July 1, 1933.  These events coincided with Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34), which opened on June 1, 1933.

      On Thursday, October 3, 2019, the Museum of Science and Industry announced that the Board of Trustees had voted to accept a $125,000,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund.  M.S.I. executives and board members felt it would consequently be appropriate to change the Museum of Science and Industry’s name to the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.  A multi-billionaire, Mr. Griffin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of Citadel, Inc., a Chicago-based hedge fund.  His gift is the largest in the history of the science and technology museum, and one of the largest gifts to any cultural institution in Chicago. 

      The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.


[1] For Orthodox Christians, Christmas will not begin until Tuesday, January 7, 2020.

[2] Some of the palaces were disassembled in Chicago and reassembled in state capitals.  The Peristyle and some other structures burnt down on January 8, 1894.  Seven more palaces burnt down on July 5, 1894.  The German building was turned into a bathhouse, was renamed the Liberty Building during the First Great World War, and burned down.  The Japanese Tea House burned down during the Second Great World War.  The Iowa Building became an eyesore and was demolished at the Museum of Science and Industry’s expense.

[3] Staff is a combination of plaster-of-paris, hemp fibers, and Portland cement.

[4] The South Park District was one of twenty-two park districts in Chicago that merged in 1934 to form the Chicago Park District.

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