Museum continues longtime tradition with modern twist

SHARE Museum continues longtime tradition with modern twist
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Children from Rainforest Learning Center made their own robot costumes for the tree-lighting ceremony. | Lee Bosch/For the Sun-Times

Although Thanksgiving is just a week away, the Museum of Science and Industry is already feeling the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, a 74-year tradition, returned Thursday with help from 14 preschool children and a miniature robot. This year, the museum’s lighting of its 45-foot Grand Christmas Tree highlighted its Robot Revolution exhibit, which opened in May.

Robotis Mini, a 12-inch robot and popular figure at the Robot exhibit, lit the rotunda’s main stage Christmas tree with support from a group of children from the Rainforest Learning Center, dressed in cardboard robot suits.

When the tradition started back in 1942, a single tree was erected to pay tribute to the Allies during World War II. Every evening, a different group of volunteers would adorn the tree to represent a different country’s culture.

“Guests flock to see this one tree: a simple, yet powerful symbol,” said David Mosena, CEO and president of the museum. “This is how one of Chicago’s most beloved traditions began: a tribute to solidarity, friendship and to this season that brings us all together.”

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The tree highlighting English traditions was a favorite with many children. | Lee Bosch/For the Sun-Times

Thursday, 51 trees, representing 51 countries, lined the museum’s rotunda. Each was decorated with trinkets distinct to that country’s culture, along with a description of Christmas customs and how to say “Merry Christmas” in their language.

Layered with a crown, miniature flags and an assortment of hats, England’s tree was particularly popular among the flocks of children and students on class fields trips enjoying the event.

“It’s my favorite,” said Naomi Muccit, 13, an 8th-grader at Andrew Carnegie Middle School. “I like how [the tree] really shows the pride they have for their country.”

The museum’s collaboration with the Rainforest Learning Center, a school based on creative development, gave 4- and 5-year olds a chance to work on robot outfits to showcase at the lighting event.

“It gets kids into the concept of working together toward a goal,” said Jay Nowak, the school’s creative director. “It’s a chance for them to feel they earned the spotlight.”

Both Robot Revolution and Christmas Around the World exhibits close Jan. 3, 2016.

“This shows the power of a simple symbol to bring people together,” said Jeff Buonomo, manager of special exhibitions.

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Children from Rainforest Learning Center made their own robot costumes for the tree-lighting ceremony. | Lee Bosch/For the Sun-Times

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A tree honoring Chinese traditions included miniature paper lanterns. | Lee Bosch/For the Sun-Times

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