The USA Tree for 2017
Over fifty different countries are represented in the exhibit,
and we are pleased to have been asked again by the
Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago
to decorate the Christmas Tree of the
United States of America.
The Exhibit runs from November 16, 2017,
through January 7, 2018.
As in previous years, all of the ornaments
(except for the crystal icicles)
were hand-made by members of the
Friends of the USA Tree.
The new items are shown in the photos below,
and the ones from the previous three years
can be seen on the individual webpages
from 2016, and 2015, and 2014.
The first four photos show the tree from the front,
from the back, from the side, and from above.
These photos were taken just as we had finished
the decorating, but before the tree was placed
into its proper slot in the exhibit space.
A few other trees can also be incidentally noticed,
including the as-yet-unfinished Grand Tree,
which stands majestically in the center.
The decorating was done during a regular
open-admission day, so a few patrons
of the Museum can also be seen,
as well as a couple of others
who were there, as we were,
to decorate another tree.
Next is the brand new Tree Skirt,
made by Xochitl Medina, who is holding it (at left).
She also made the bows (shown in the following photo)
which were placed on the back of the tree.
Next are some photos of the new Star Boxes
which were added to those from last year.
Some are seen with their lids,
and some without.
The next photo shows this year's group of
Friends of the USA Tree . . . . .
(left to right) Sybelle Z. Martinez, Xavier Zamora,
Robert Zamora, Monica Lozano, Xochitl Medina,
Martha Dwyer, Bruce Duffie, and Kathy Cunningham
Below are some photos of us in action.
First we find the tree waiting for our workmanship.
The theme of the exhibit is Christmas Trees;
the theme of the set-up phase is LADDERS!
Everyone goes up and down on them all day,
but technicians from the Museum are the only
ones allowed to use the motorized lifts. So they
place all of the tree-toppers -- including our eagle.
As we begin, the most important thing
The placement of the star boxes
and other ornaments is considered
and then executed.
Each star box is illuminated from within,
so tiny lights are inserted into the holes
around the outside edges, as shown in
the next two photos.
After that, everyone continues to add
other items until everything is ready.
Though dressed alike, the woman on the ladder in the
photo above is Xochitl, while the one on the same
ladder below (later in the day) is Martha.
The tree is nearly ready, so the tables are practically empty.
All that is left to do is place the skirt around the base
of the tree, and take the group photo.
A few days later, after the trees were placed in their
display locations, we returned to view the open exhibit.
The next two photos show the USA Tree among its neighbors.
After that is an article which appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Every December, we’d start asking, “When are we going, Dad?”
My family was big on traditions, and as a child, December heralded a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the “Christmas Around the World” exhibit.
As a child, I’d ooh and aah with siblings over eclectic ornaments and decorations, vibrant splashes of color and textures, tin, paper and fabric lessons in tradition and culture. We’d dart from one tree to another, shouts beckoning each other to each cool find. Then would come hot cocoa.
My father, who passed away the year I graduated high school, made this a tradition for a decade. We went every year until we moved out of the city. I hadn’t been back in decades.
Hearing the frequent ads for the exhibit on the all-Christmas music station I listen to during the holidays (yeah, I’m that person) always brings back fond memories.
So it being the 75th year and all, I coerced my 90-year-old mother and sister into a walk down memory lane.
First thought: How big the trees seemed when I was little. It always felt like a forest back then
Next thought: The wonder remains.
The beauty triggered holiday glee as soon as we entered the domed rotunda with its 45-foot tree in the center and the international trees fanning in every direction.
Each tree lovingly decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s many ethnic communities and cultural organizations were a feast for the eyes: handcrafted ornaments and revered photos, sculptured flowers and multi-costumed dolls, some decorations passed down through generations.
Belgium boasted waffle ornaments and photos of its king and queen. China featured origami ornaments and lanterns showcasing the paper-folding art that is a holiday tradition passed down for centuries. Croatia’s tree has ornaments made of cookie dough, conserved for years to come.
Then there’s Italy, with ornaments reflecting colors of the Italian flag; Mexico, featuring perforated paper ornaments of chiseled, colored tissue paper, a traditional Mexican folk art; and Ukraine, with silver spiders and handmade spider web ornaments of traditional Ukrainian embroidery patterns.
We were transported back, oohing and aahing; an occasional, “Hey, check this out!” beckoning mother or sister to cool finds; huddling, pointing, necks craned upward at Bolivia’s tree and its ornaments of llamas, totora boats and native Cholita dolls. It’s been decorated by the same family for 12 years, with 160 handmade ornaments collected from trips back to Bolivia.
New trees have been added over the years. This year, trees were added for Assyria, Australia and Nigeria, my country of origin, its tree decorated with handmade, multi-colored Nigerian lace fabric and garlands created from black-eyed peas and beaded jewelry.
The Czech Republic tree has been a part of Christmas Around the World since its 1942 inception, a glowing vision of candlelights and traditional gingerbread ornaments. And the U.S. tree, a fan favorite, is topped not with a star but an eagle, decorated with large, hand-quilted stockings, crocheted snowflakes, and shadow box ornaments depicting Christmas memories.
The exhibit runs through Jan. 7, with weekend live performances by local ethnic and cultural groups offering native music and dance in the main auditorium through Dec. 17.
Ending our visit, we eschewed hot chocolate for tea, sipping as we sat there savoring the beauty of the trees in this 75-year tradition, and the deeper lesson my parents sought to impart, only now understood. Through Christmas Around the World, they’d reminded us of our global commonality at this time of Christmas, while nurturing in their children an appreciation for other cultures.