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Chicago's beloved holiday tradition returns, families can take photos with Santa on select days

CHICAGO (November 17, 2021)—Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light return to the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) this November, highlighting the rich customs of more than 50 countries and cultures. The exhibits run November 17 through January 3, 2022.

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.

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. 

Don’t miss the chance to take a photo with 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. 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.  

Established in 1942, Christmas Around the World began 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.    

Other experiences and events this year include: 

  • 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. Member Holiday Evenings are supported by Envy Apples. 

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light are included in Museum Entry. Advance ticket reservations are required, book tickets online at msichicago.org/holidays. On November 17 and December 8, Illinois residents can receive free Museum Entry. Visit procedures and safety details can be found at msichicago.org/welcome. MSI is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

About the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI), one of the largest science museums in the world, offers world-class and uniquely interactive experiences that inspire inventive genius and foster curiosity. From groundbreaking and award-winning exhibits that can’t be found anywhere else, to hands-on opportunities that make you the scientist—a visit to MSI is where fun and learning mix. Through its Welcome to Science Initiative, the Museum offers a variety of student, teacher and family programs that make a difference in communities and contribute to MSI’s larger vision: to inspire and motivate children to achieve their full potential in science, technology, medicine and engineering. Come visit and find your inspiration! The Museum is grateful for the support of its donors and guests, who make its work possible. MSI is also supported in part by the people of Chicago through the Chicago Park District. For more information, visit msichicago.org or call (773) 684-1414.

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MSI's annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit celebrates the rich traditions of cultures from around the globe with over 50 trees and displays.

[Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]

Over 50 trees and displays are decorated by volunteers from Chicago area communities.

[Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]

The Christmas Around the World exhibit is an annual favorite among guests for taking photos and making memories.

[Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]

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]

Holidays of Light contain symbolic objects that showcase celebrations honoring light and enlightenment, including Lunar New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah and St. Lucia Day. 

[Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]

This year's theme is a nod to the golden age of travel and MSI's trains, planes, cars and other transportation exhibits.

[Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]

The 45-foot-tall Grand Tree in the Rotunda sparkles with more than 30,000 lights.

[Photo by Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago]

Images presented here are for the express use for promoting the Museum of Science and Industry. All images must be properly credited. Images may not be reproduced by third parties without express written permission from the Museum of Science and Industry.