Holiday ornaments on a tree in the Christmas Around the World exhibit.
philippines to serbia

Trees and Traditions


“Maligayang Pasko”

All of the decorations on the tree are from the Philippines, and most have been crafted by hand. Many are made with pineapple fiber, beautifully colored capiz shells, bamboo and leaves from tropical trees. The ornamental stars replicate a paról, or a star-shaped lantern made with bamboo and paper that adorn homes throughout the country. This star represents the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Kings to the manger, in addition to the victory of light over darkness, much like the Filipinos’ hope and goodwill during the holiday season. Christmas in the Philippines is celebrated as early as September and lasts through January. The country has earned the distinction of celebrating the world's longest Christmas season.

Tree decorated by the Fil-Am Halo-Halo, and FADA Alumnae: the Quinol, Greene, Romano, Halaska, Dayco and Mirza families.


“Wesolych Świąt”

In Poland, Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia (vigil). Early in the evening, family members share the oplatek, or Christmas wafer. Poles wait for the first star to appear in the sky before sitting down to dinner. The meatless meal may be either a 12-course feast to symbolize the 12 apostles, or seven dishes representing the seven sacraments. With full stomachs, families share the oplatek with friends and neighbors. Livestock and pets are included in the sharing; after all, animals witnessed Christ’s birth in the manger as well. This year’s Polish tree features handmade ornaments representing the region of Kaszuby, Poland, known as the land of the lakes. To honor this region, seven colors that represent the legend of Kaszuby are featured on the tree, in addition to four egg ornaments that represent water fowl and fish from the area.

Tree decorated by the Polish Scouting Organization with financial support by the Legion of Young Polish Women.

Puerto Rico

“Feliz Navidad”

The instruments, including the national symbol of the cuatro guitar, hanging from the tree celebrate the Puerto Rican holiday tradition of Christmas caroling, known as parranda or asalto. During Christmastime in Puerto Rico, friends and families get together in groups, or trullas, late in the evening to go from house to house, singing traditional songs and playing many instruments. The participants aim to surprise their friends by waking them with music. As the night progresses, the group becomes larger and larger as people from each house join the group to the next asalto. While Christmas is celebrated in Puerto Rico, the more popular holiday is January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Día de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day.

Tree decorated by the Bonilla Foundation, in honor of Leonides Bonilla.


“Craciun Fericit”

Romania’s tree is decorated with a variety of handmade ornaments, including glass Christmas trees; puppets dressed in national costumes; walnuts; apples; and ornaments in the national colors of red, yellow and blue. You’ll see a big star as the tree topper, which represents the star from the holy night. Romanian families decorate the Christmas tree while enjoying food and songs. Guests and carolers are welcomed to people’s homes for a three-day period, starting on the evening of December 24. This celebration dates back approximately 2,000 years and honors the nativity of Jesus.

Tree decorated by the Holy Nativity Romanian Orthodox Church.


“Vesyoloye Rozhdyestvo”

The Russian tree is decorated by children adopted from Russia and their families, serving as thanks to Russia and a celebration of Russian culture and tradition. It includes traditional black lacquer ornaments handcrafted in Russia, as well as ornaments gifted by Russian schoolchildren. Among the ornaments are important symbols such as Grandfather Frost on his troika pulled by three horses and the beautiful Snow Maiden. Look closely to see other tributes to Russia, including important Russian architecture, musicians such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, ballet, the elegant Borzoi, matryoshka nesting dolls and more. Russia is a diverse country, and people celebrate many winter holidays like Orthodox Christmas and New Year's Day.

Tree decorated by loving American families with children adopted from Russia.


“Nollaig Chridheil”

On the Scottish tree are traditional symbols of Scottish culture. Tartan is the traditional woven fabric of the country, while other decorations feature golf, highland dance, bagpipes, highland coos (cows), sheep and more. During the 16th century, the Reformation banned Christmas in Scotland, and for some 500 years, Scots celebrated New Year’s Day (Hogmanay) instead. However, several Christmas superstitions survived. Bees are believed to leave their hives on Christmas morning. Fires are kept burning on Christmas to keep evil spirits at bay. The morning after Christmas, Scots may look at the fire’s ashes for a footprint. If there is a footprint and it faces the door, a death in the family is foretold; if the footprint faces into the room, a stranger will visit.

Tree decorated by Thistle & Heather Highland Dancers.


“Mir Bozji, Hristos se Rodi”

The Serbian crèche displays items representing Serbian Orthodox Holiday traditions, including Holy icons; customary straw weavings; candles; wheat grains; decorated festal bread; oak branches; and costume pieces. Serbian holiday traditions begin with St. Nicholas Day on December 19, when children receive gifts in their shoes set out the night before. Wheat grains are planted in a dish, and however much it has grown by Christmas represents the bounty that is to come the coming year. Christmas is celebrated on January 7, and Serbians distribute straw around the home to represent where Christ was born. A holy icon of the nativity is displayed, and nuts are tossed in four corners of a room to symbolize the sign of the cross. Instead of a Christmas tree, families have a badnjak (oak branch) still bearing its leaves and decorated with colorful ribbons and fruit. Hot plum brandy is traditionally served, and an ornately decorated sweet bread (Božičnjak) is the holiday table centerpiece. A coin is baked into another Christmas bread (Česnica), and whoever finds it is granted joy.

Creché of Serbian cultures and traditions prepared with pride by Gordana Trbuhovich.