Coca-Cola Polar Bear Coming to M.S.I.’s Christmas Around the World

Do you love the polar bears from Coca-Cola’s Christmastime commercials?  Fans will be able to take their picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear and try free samples of Coke products at the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) this Saturday afternoon.  The Coca-Cola Holiday Caravan will set up on the north lawn as a free, ancillary event for the M.S.I.’s annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light festivals. 

It will last for three hours, from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, A.D. 2022.  The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola bottlers are celebrating the 25th annual Coca-Cola Caravan in 2022. Coca-Cola is inviting participants to share their pictures on social media with the hashtag #cokecaravan. 

This is not the first time Coca-Cola has been associated with Christmas Around the World.  As I mentioned in articles about the 75th annual Christmas Around the World (1999) and 80th Christmas Around the World (2022), in 1990, the M.S.I. augmented Christmas Around the World with the exhibition Coca-Cola Christmas Collection, which celebrated paintings of Santa Claus that The Coca-Cola Company had commissioned from Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976) in 1931 to illustrate advertising. 

A visit to the Museum of Science and Industry to see Christmas Around the World is a beloved tradition in Chicagoland.  A few weeks ago, a perfect stranger who knew I was somehow connected to the Museum of Science and Industry came up to me and started to tell me how much he loved his family’s annual visit to see the Christmas Around the World trees as a little boy.  His face lit up as he recounted how it led to him to grow up to be the Christmas tree man in his family. Not only is he in charge of decorating the Christmas tree for his own household, but his brother’s tree, too, and a retirement home’s tree, as well.

As always, this year the forty-five-foot-tall Grand Tree takes center stage in the M.S.I.’s Grand Rotunda with more than 30,000 red, green, and white twinkling lights and hundreds of ornaments and trimmings.  Volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities have decorated over fifty smaller trees to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. The countries represented in the festival range from Armenia to Wales.[1]

            Holidays of Light, now in its twenty-nineth year, is a multicultural display of holidays that celebrate light or enlightenment.  The display highlights the traditions of the Chinese New Year, Diwali (a Hindu and Sikh festival), Kwanzaa (celebrated by some African Americans), Ramadan (celebrated by Muslims), Hanukkah (a Jewish holiday), Visakha Puja Day (a Buddhist holiday), and St. Lucia Day (a Swedish Christian holiday).

If you would like to learn more about Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, Herman Kogan recounted the story of how and why Major Lohr started Christmas Around the World in A Continuing Marvel: the Story of the Museum of Science and Industry, published by Doubleday in 1973, as did Jay Pridmore in Inventive Genius: The History of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, published by Museum Books in 1996. 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.  In former M.S.I. President David Mosena’s “Forward” to Traditions, he explained that in 1994, the M.S.I. added an ancillary exhibit, Holidays of Light, bringing attention to Chinese New Year, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Saint Lucia Day, and Shogatsu.[2]

The Art of the Brick, a traveling exhibit devoted to Nathan Sawaya’s artworks comprised of LEGO® bricks, is getting a Christmas makeover.  On Wednesday, November 16, A.D. 2022, he debuted artworks with the theme the 12 Days of Christmas.

A Mold-A-Rama™ exhibit opened at the M.S.I. on Thursday, November 3, A.D. 2022.  As I mentioned in an article in September about the M.S.I. auctioning off items from the Circus exhibit and Zeph the animatronic burro from All Aboard the Silver Streak (the old Burlington Zephyr exhibit) the Mold-A-Rama™ exhibit, it occupies the space formerly occupied by the Circus in the East Gallery on the Lower Level of the M.S.I.  The exhibit, I now know, is named Mold-A-Rama™: Molded for the Future.   It will be open for approximately a year, through the autumn of 2023.

Photos with Santa

Santa Claus will be available on weekends and certain other days between the 16th of November and the 24th of December.  The photo studio is located inside the Holiday Store.  The whole family can pose with Pere Noel to take a souvenir photo. 

There are three photo packages.  Members receive a 10% discount on all packages and upgrades.  For $35, a family can sit with Santa and get two printed 6”x8” photos.  For $50, a family can sit with Santa, get a digital copy and you printed 6”x8” photo.  For $65, a family can sit with Santa, get two printed 6”x8” photos, get a digital copy, and get a festive picture frame.

These activities required separate, time-entry tickets that are available to purchase online.  To get tickets for a photo package online, when you select a date, select an entry time, and click on “Photo with Santa.”  Tickets can also be purchased in person on-site, but availability may be limited.

Member Holiday Evenings

The second and last of two Member Holiday Evenings will be from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14, A.D. 2022. This event is free for Members, but they must make reservations. Please note that the second date is exclusively for Members at the Annual Fund level.

This is an opportunity to see the Christmas trees and other displays with fewer visitors. Festive treats will be served.

Group photos with Santa are complimentary. Tickets for photos with Santa are available on-site on a first-come, first-served basis.


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Open Hours

The M.S.I. is open most days from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but it is open later during summertime and Christmastime, and other busy periods.  It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day/the First Day of Christmas. 

This month, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, A.D. 2022 through Friday, December 23, A.D. 2022.  It will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 on Saturday, December 24, A.D. 2022 (Christmas Eve) and closed on Sunday, December 25, A.D. 2022 (Christmas Day, which is to say the 1st Day of Christmas).  It will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Monday, December 26, A.D. 2022 through Friday, December 30, A.D. 2022 (the 2nd through 6th Days of Christmas).  It will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 31, A.D. 2022 (New Year’s Eve/ the 7th Day of Christmas). 

Please note that it will open late, at 11:00 a.m., on Sunday, January 1, A.D. 2022 (New Year’s Day/the 8th Day of Christmas) and stay open until 5:30 p.m.  It will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Monday, January 2, A.D. 2023 to Saturday, January 7, A.D. 2023, as well as on Saturday, January 16, A.D. 2023.

Ticket Prices

Museum Entry (general admission) tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.95 for children (three-to-eleven), and free for Museum Members.  This covers the Mold-A-Rama™ exhibit and most permanent exhibits, including the Zephyr, Science Storms, You! The Experience, the Ships Gallery, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, The Great Train Story, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, and walking around (but not through) the U-505.  Museum Entry also covers Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light.

Tickets for Giant Dome Theater movies are $12 for adults and $9 for children, and free or discounted for Members.  The same is true for Coal Mine Tours, Fab Lab workshops, and Dissect an Eye workshops in the Education Lab.  For the U-505 On-Board Tour, tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for children, $17 for Adult Members, and $13 for Child Members.[3]

The Art of the Brick has been extended by popular demand through January 16, A.D. 2023.  Tickets for this traveling exhibit are $14 for adults, $11 for children, and $7 for Members.

Notes on Museum Eateries

The Brain Food Court is closed while it undergoes renovations and will re-open as the Museum Kitchen in December.  [Update – the Museum Kitchen opened on Monday, December 19, A.D. 2022.]  Meanwhile, a coffee and doughnut shop, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, has opened.  It replaced the Museum Café (a coffee shop that also sold sandwiches) in the Lower Court, on the Lower Level (ground floor), in the Central Pavilion.

A new restaurant I mentioned last year, the Museum Parke Café, with outdoor seating in Beaver Park, on the Lower Level, between the Henry Crown Space Center and the East Pavilion, is closed it is safe to assume because Chicago winters do not permit outdoor dining.  It has been replaced by One Small Snack, a takeout café in the southeast corner of the Henry Crown Space Center.[4] 

Finnigan’s Sandwich Shoppe (a rebranding of Finnegan’s Ice Cream Parlor), off Yesterday’s Main Street, on the Main Level, in the Central Pavilion, also seems to be temporarily closed.  I did not see it being marked off as undergoing renovations on the current floor plan, but I surmise that it is closed because I do not see hours listed for it posted on the M.S.I.’s Website and nor is it mentioned on the list of restaurants and shops on the Website.

There are some vending machines located in the Lower Court and there remains a limited amount of seating in the Lower Court.  Visitors who bring their own lunches can eat them in the Lower Court and in a designated area outside the Ships Gallery.

When I wrote about the opening of The Art of the Brick, The Idea Factory, an interactive attraction that is popular with young children, located near Farm Tech, in the Central Pavilion on the Lower Level (ground floor) was closed.  It is now open. The Science Theater, located near Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle at the south end of the Central Pavilion on the Lower Level, seems to be closed.

The Museum of Science and Industry is sometimes stylized as the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago and as the Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago.  One of the Museums in the Park, it is situated in the northeast corner of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park in East Hyde Park, a neighborhood along the shoreline in the Hyde Park Community Area on the South Side of Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, the last pavilion left standing in Jackson Park from Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).

It sits at the southwest corner of 57th Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.  [In 2020, the Chicago City Council voted to tack DuSable in front of Lake Shore Drive.]  One southbound lane of DuSable Lake Shore Drive is closed from 57th Drive to Hayes Drive due to roadway work related to the construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

The address is 5700 South DuSable Lake Shore Drive.  The phone number is (773) 684-1414. The Website is

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[1] Of course, the Christmas tree is very much a European (specifically German) thing.  There are many parts of the world where Christians have no tradition of bringing pine trees into their homes at Christmastime.  People come to the U.S.A. generally and Chicago specifically from all over the world and adopt a tradition that came to the U.S. directly from Germany or indirectly by way of England (where the Hanoverian kings brought the tradition).  In many cases, when Chicago area residents decorate Christmas trees to represent their ethnic groups or homelands for Christmas Around the World the decorations we see on representative trees would be displayed in other ways in the countries concerned.

[2] Erin Okamoto Protsman, Traditions: A Guidebook from the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” Festivals. Nashville, Tennessee: Favorite Recipes Press (1999), p. 5

[3] Previously, under COVID-19 restrictions, visitors could walk around her in the U-505 exhibit hall, but not through her.

[4]  Why, yes, the café is a reference to Neil Armstrong’s quote, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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