Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A night at the Museum of Science of Industry

For 72 years the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry has been celebrating the holidays with Christmas Around the World and the Holidays of Light exhibit. Originally a United Nations Day salute to the Allies during WWII, the annual exhibit has grown to more than 50 trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities. Choral groups perform during the week, and weekends bring ethnic song and dance performances by many of the ethnic groups that decorate the trees.

Latvians have been joining in for years, possibly 40-50. I remember dutifully making several trips every year, one to help decorate our tree with the traditional puzuri and cranberries, the second to participate in our performance sharing traditional Latvian customs of the holidays. Those of you who might have stood onstage with me (or watched from the audience) for ~ten years might remember the catchy lines like “look, there’s the log!” and “but we can dance!” The Latvians will take the stage this year on Sunday, December 15th at 10:45 am for those of my readers in the Chicagoland area; I urge you to stop in and say sveiks to the kids from Krišjāņa Barona Latviešu Skola giving up their Saturday morning to share a bit of Latvian culture with the world.

This year while in Chicago for Thanksgiving I happened to have an “in” with the head decorator of the Latvian tree, and so was invited to the Christmas Around the World annual Holidays of Light gala. The sight of the 45 foot Grand Tree in the center of the rotunda greeted us as we came up the escalator, and it was hard to miss this year’s theme – Disney.

We got a sneak peak at the new temporary exhibit “Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, presented by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club”, which celebrates the innovation of Walt Disney’s legacy with more than 300 artifacts from 90 years of Disney. We wandered through looking at the various movie paraphernalia and clips playing, and Lauris tried his hand at drawing Mickey Mouse at the end of the exhibit. Or should I say Mickey Squirrel? “I don’t want to draw a mouse, I want to draw a squirrel.”

Dinner was delicious, but the real attraction was seeing the exhibits after hours. I’m not sure the boys knew where to look first; between the thousands of twinkling lights in all the trees, the planes and trains in the transportation exhibit, the tsunami and hot air balloons in the weather exhibit and all the other exciting things to look at, their mouths were permanently open in awe.

Mad scientist Mikus!
A couple hours and several Minnie Mouse cupcakes later (seriously, who had the idea to use black frosting – our entire group ended up with black lips and tongues… dark chocolate would have done the job just fine) we had done the rounds of the majority of trees and open exhibits. I wish the miniature trains had been running as both boys are big train fans, but Lauris is still talking about all the wonders he saw at the “Christmas tree museum.” Thanks to my mother for taking us with, and good luck to the kids taking the stage December 15th!

* The exhibit runs through January 5, 2014, and is included in the cost of entry to the museum. An additional ticket is required for the Disney exhibit. For a full schedule of performances and more information on the exhibits, please visit the Museum of Science and Industry’s exhibit overview webpage.


  1. What a great experience. My boys would have been in complete awe - Christmas trees and Mickey Mouse. They don't need much more than that.

  2. What wonderfully huge and beautiful Christmas trees! I remember visiting the museum in December once many years ago as a kid and seeing the Chicago Latvians dance, but I don't recall the decorations being THAT impressive. I think I need to plan in a December visit to Chicago next year to see that and the Christkindlmarkt!!

  3. The museum of science and industry was always my favorite field trip growing up.


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