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Holiday ornaments on a tree in the Christmas Around the World exhibit.
Armenia to Colombia

Trees and Traditions

Armenia

"Shnorhavor Surp Dznunt"

The Armenian tree is decorated in the traditional style, with fruits such as pomegranates representing abundance and life. The tree also includes religious symbolism with crosses and icons representing our Christian heritage. The tree is topped with a star and two doves, representing new life and a new year.

Tree decorated by Armenian Youth Federation.

Assyria

"Eedokhun Breekha!"

Assyrians are from the region of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Today they can be found all over the world. Assyrians have continued to thrive and pass down their traditions, connections, and language for thousands of years. Symbols seen in the Assyrian flag:

—Golden circle (the sun)
—Bright blue star (happiness and tranquility)
—Wavy dark blue (Euphrates River; abundance and fertility)
—Wavy red (Tigris River; courage, glory, and pride)
—Wavy white (Great Zab River; calm and peace
)

Tree decorated by "Motwa" - The Assyrian National Council of Illinois.

Australia

"Merry Christmas"

Summer is in full swing during the Christmas season in Australia. This tree has been designed to celebrate the diversity of the Australian landscape, from the snow-capped mountains of Tasmania to the tropical reefs of Queensland and beyond. On this tree, you’ll also find a koala taking a nap and some kangaroos bouncing down below. See what other native animals you can spot! If you look closely enough, you might even see trinkets from Australia's neighbor and friend New Zealand.

Tree decorated by the Aussies X Chicago.

Austria

“Frohe Weihnachten”

To celebrate Austrian pride, pinecones, red and white heart-shaped plaques—depicting cities, provinces and famous Austrians—decorate the tree. The beloved Christmas carol "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night") was composed in a chapel in Oberndorf, Austria, in 1818. To honor that history, a sketch of the chapel is displayed on the tree. And no traditional Austrian Christmas tree is complete without sugar-filled paper tassels. Families gather on Christmas Eve to enjoy dinner, featuring baked or fried carp. Christkind (Christ child), often a young woman dressed in robes, visits Austrian homes to give gifts to children.

Tree decorated by members of The Austrian Mixed Chorus and American Friends of Austria.

Belarus

“Vyaselykh Kalyad”

Our tree is decorated with dolls in traditional clothing, angels and animals made from flax and golden straw which are common Belarusian souvenirs. The tree is complemented by other ornaments made by enthusiastic volunteers.

In addition to celebrating Christmas and New Year, some Belarusians also celebrate Kaliady (between Christmas and Epiphany), a winter festival dating back to pagan times. Many dress in elaborate animal costumes, knock on doors, sing songs, and give well-wishes to everyone. Kutia (sweet wheat pudding with fruits and honey), salty herring, vinihret (beet salad), and other savory and sweet dishes grace the holiday table.

Tree decorated by friendly Belarusians.

Belgium

“Joyeux Noël” (French), “Vrolijk Kerstfeest” (Dutch), “Fröhliche Weihnachten” (German)

Each year, this tree features a mix of traditional decorations that one might find on the tree of any Belgian family, along with other items that represent and celebrate current events in this country. During the holidays, families enjoy baking—and eating!—waffles, speculoos (spiced cookies shaped like St. Nicholas) and bûche de Noël (a yule log cake).

Tree decorated by Belgians and friends of Belgium.

Belize

“Merry Christmas”

This tree displays wooden doves, painted white to symbolize peace. Handmade wooden-boat ornaments represent the country’s maritime culture. Other ornaments include Belize-grown dried flowers, which resemble acorns, and handmade dolls. For the nine evenings of Las Posadas (celebrated by Mestizo culture), statues of Mary and Joseph are carried throughout town, from home to home, accompanied by music, dance, fireworks and other festivities. In Garifuna culture, the Charikanari dance interprets the relationship of a bull and a hunter with elaborate costumes, fun and games. Creole communities in Belize celebrate the Bram, a parade of dancing, singing and music-making throughout the countryside.

Tree decorated by the Richards Family, Harris Family and Fant Family.

Bolivia

“Feliz Navidad”

The Bolivia tree has beautiful and colorful ornaments that represent the three main regions of Bolivia: high plains, valleys and low plains. The ornaments include furry llamas, totora boats, corn-husk dolls, diablos, and native Cholita dolls. In Bolivia, Christmas centers on the birth of Jesus. Gifts come from Jesus, and Santa Claus delivers those gifts. This religious holiday is spent with family and celebrated with special dinners consisting of picana, empanadas, salads, and a variety of tropical fruits. Enjoy the beauty of the Bolivia Christmas tree!

Tree decorated by Bolivian family and friends in the Chicagoland area. Special thanks to the Escobar, Berger, Leonardi, Barriuso and Glosner families.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

"Sretan Božić" and "Sretna Nova Godina!"

While Deda Mraz (Grandfather Frost) brings gifts of sweets and toys,
For good girls and good little boys, 
We want to remind you of the holiday’s reason: 
Peace, hope, and love are the true gifts of the season! 
Wishing you all "Sretan Božić" (Merry Christmas) and "Sretna Nova Godina!" (Happy New Year!)

Tree decorated by the Bosnian Herzegovinian American Community Center.

Bulgaria

“Честита Коледа!” "Chestita Koleda"

This tree exemplifies Bulgaria's unique and ancient winter traditions. Starting at midnight on Christmas Eve, koledari (carolers) roam through villages warding off evil spirits. As the New Year begins, people gently pat each other on their backs with survachka (decorated dogwood branches) and recite short verses wishing them well. Kukeri (masked, furry monsters) dance on the streets inviting good luck and scaring away the evil eye. To welcome spring and the new circle of life, people wear martenitsa, made from white strands for purity and red strands for life and passion. This tree's handcrafted ornaments depict Bulgaria's ethnicity and folklore.

Tree decorated by members of the Chicago Bulgarian community.

Canada

"Merry Christmas,” “Joyeux Noël” (French)

Canada is a mosaic of peoples: there is no Canada-specific way of decorating for Christmas. For this tree, we have collected items from each Province and Territory, and we proudly feel it represents Canada from coast to coast.

Tree decorated by the Canadian Women’s Club of Chicago.

China

“Seng Dan Fai Lok”, 聖誕快樂

This tree’s paper ornaments and lanterns were made by a local Girl Scout troop. These adornments showcase the special art of paper folding, which is a tradition during the holiday season. This art has been passed on for centuries and provides unity among the young and old as a way to decorate for special holidays. The lanterns represent light, leading the way to brighter horizons. Lanterns are historically created for China’s Lantern Festival, which typically takes place in February or March.

Tree decorated by the Chinese American Civic Council of Chicago.

Colombia

“Feliz Navidad"

This tree features dolls representing the typical outfits of each region of Colombia. The holiday season begins with Immaculate Conception Day on December 8 and ends with Three Kings Day on January 6. On December 14, families begin to construct lavish nativity scenes, but baby Jesus is not placed in the manger until Christmas Eve. Following midnight mass, families gather to enjoy a Christmas Eve feast. Gifts—sweets or small toys left under children’s beds—are given by baby Jesus, although Santa has become popular in recent years.

Tree decorated by the Colombia America Cultural Center.