Every year I like to mention the Museum of Science and Industry’s sparkling, attention-getting display of “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light.”
Perhaps you like genealogy and want to get a glimpse of the culture your family came from, or maybe you like to see how the holiday season is shared around the world, or maybe you just like holiday decorations. Whatever lights up your day, the museum’s display is the place to go.
Featuring 50-plus traditions and countries, “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” is made up of trees, as well as displays, with handmade ornaments and information on a whole host of holiday customs.
The exhibit is on the main floor of the museum – just look for the tall, 45-foot Grand Tree that stretches toward the ceiling. It shines with more than 45,000 lights, and if you’re timing is right, you can experience the museum’s very own snowfall, which happens every 30 minutes.
“Holidays of Light,” in the museum’s festive forest, sheds light on celebrations that involve enlightenment, such as Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, St. Lucia Day, Diwali (Hindu), Ramadan, Visakha Puja Day (Buddhist) and Kwanzaa.
While all of this is amazing enough, there’s much more to see.
Performances and special events go hand in hand with the holiday tour. To make this visit more than a day trip, try “A Night at the Museum” on Dec. 19. This requires an extra ticket, and those attending are encouraged to bring toys, coats, warming items or clothes to be donated to the homeless. Visitors will tour the museum, see live performances, enjoy special activities and interactive spaces, hear from Chance the Rapper and may even get a giveaway item. A news release mentions even more fun surprises. The cost for the night is $10; the hours are 6 to 10 p.m.
On the weekends, cultural performances and Santa Claus will be at the museum. Catch the performances at the main auditorium inside the West Pavilion, where they’ll be dancing and music. Among the performances are the Bethany Romanian Church and Society of the Danube Swabians. Also, look for an opportunity to make snow-filled ornaments from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and to grab a holiday treat. Santa can be found and photos can be taken with him with the purchase of an additional ticket online or at the entry hall or Holiday Studio. Photos are $30 per family or $10 for digital image or extra sheet. It’s best to get these tickets online in advance. Visit msichicago.org/holiday for a complete schedule.
Other treats include MSI–Custom Stan’s Donut, which is cinnamon flavored and available only at the museum for a limited time. There’s also the Maker’s United Ornament Workshop, which is just right for beginners, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here, guests will learn about circuit-building while making a color-changing ornament. A separate ticket is required for this;$12 for adults and $9 for children 3 to 11. It’s recommended for those 6 and older. Children younger than 12 must be accompanied by a paying adult. Tickets can be ordered online.
Also note that the museum has extended hours from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 21-22 and 26-30.
Brave the driving delights of the big city and head on up to the museum. You’ll leave saying “God Jul” (that’s “Merry Christmas”, Norwegian style).
If you go …
What: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Where: Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
When: Through Jan. 5, 2020 - regular hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. - closed Christmas Day
Cost: $21.95 adults or $19.95 online, $12.95 children 3 to 11 or $10.95 online; some events, exhibits have additional pricing
Distance: About 116 miles from Dixon
Accessibility: Accessible to wheelchairs
Information: msichicago.org or 773-684-1414