Christmas Around the World Opens at MSI

In its 79th year, the Museum of Science and Industry’s (MSI) Christmas around the World and Holidays of Light opened Wednesday.   In 1942 the exhibit opened with a single tree to show solidarity with fellow Allied nations during World War II, symbolizing that there is more that unites us than divides us. For the past 79 years, this exhibit has become a Chicago tradition, connecting guests through the spirit of the holiday season and the sharing of each other’s heritages.    . Today, the exhibit features a four story Grand tree surrounded by more than 50 trees and displays to represent holiday traditions from cultures around the world.

This year, the exhibits celebrate the golden age of travel with themed décor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and Take Flight‘s 727, which have been newly reimagined. In addition, guests can visit Santa and have a souvenir photo taken with him on select days.

Christmas Around the World MSI Chicago Defender
The ornaments on the Kenya tree represent traditional Kenyan toys including musical instruments, dolls, cars, cycles and sports balls. [Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]
Hundreds of volunteers from Chicago’s diverse communities use handmade décor and personal mementos to decorate a forest of trees and displays that line the Museum’s Rotunda and main floor in a stunning spectacle. Guests can learn why silver spiders are good luck, find out which country celebrates the world’s longest Christmas season, marvel at intricate origami ornaments and more.

This year guests can enjoy a variety of experiences including:

  • Santa Photos: Make even more memories by posing with Santa for a souvenir photo in his festive studio inside the Holiday Shop. Guests can even leave a note for the jolly man! This activity requires an additional timed-entry ticket and is not included in Museum Entry. Capacity is limited and subject to availability.
  • Traditional Outfits: New displays feature seven traditional outfits shared with MSI by volunteer groups representing Bulgaria, Ecuador, Hungary, Japan, Kenya and Scotland.
  • Holiday Shop: Full of great gifts and festive trinkets for family and friends, including unique ornaments representing cultures from around the world. Some items also available for purchase online.
  • Member Holiday Mornings and Evenings: MSI Members have private access to explore Christmas around the World and Holidays of Light. Santa joins the fun for Member Holiday Mornings, held every Saturday from November 20 – December 18 and on Sunday January 2, 2022. Two new Member Holiday Evenings are scheduled for November 18 and December 30. Annual Fund members get their own evening event on December 15.

This year’s exhibition includes the Grand Tree—a 45-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling tree featuring more than 30,000 lights. A special tree this year commemorates the Chicago Sky’s historic WNBA championship win. Trees from Assyria, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines and more are included in the stunning display of holiday trees this year.  In addition, the Holidays of Light are showcased in display cases that contain symbolic objects used to celebrate Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day and St. Lucia Day.

Christmas around the World and Holidays of Light are included in Museum Entry. Advance ticket reservations are required, book tickets online at On November 17 and December 8, Illinois residents can receive free Museum Entry. Visit procedures and safety details can be found at MSI is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The exhibition runs through January 2, 2022.


Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSanders20 and @DanieSandersOfficial.

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