Lansing Historical Society’s Christmas Around the World opens December 2

by Jennifer Pallay

LANSING, Ill. (November 24, 2019) – The lower level of the Lansing Public Library is looking a lot like Christmas thanks to the many volunteers who put together the Festival of Lights and Christmas Around the World.

The grand opening of this year’s exhibit will take place from 6:00–8:00pm on December 2 at the Lansing Public Library. The TF South Choir will sing on the library stage to open the Festival of Lights. The festivities will then move to the lower level of the library, where guests will view the exhibits. There is no charge to attend.

From 9 to 35

This Lansing tradition began in 1981 with only nine trees and currently features about 35 displays representing more than two dozen countries and the Lansing community. It has also grown to more than just trees. Traditional holiday season recipes from different countries are displayed as well as a collection of nativity scenes from around the world.

The Lithuanian Christmas exhibit includes a mannequin in a Lithuanian costume. (Photo provided)

“We keep adding to it every year,” said Barb Dust, curator of the Lansing Historical Society Museum and the Christmas exhibit. This year’s additions include a display of vintage toys donated by the descendants of Christian Schultz, one of Lansing’s founding fathers.

“It’s neat to think these are antique toys that Santa actually brought to Lansing in the early 1900s,” Dust said.

New among the trees will be one representing India. Other trees represent Poland, Germany, Africa, and Hanukah, as well as Native Americans, LACE’s Autumn Fest, and the Village of Lansing to name a few.

Lansing history combined with Christmas

Dust has been curator of this exhibit for the past five to six years, previously working on the Kwanzaa display. She tries to represent Lansing’s diversity and involve members of various cultures in displaying and decorating their own trees. A retired Nathan Hale Elementary School teacher, she uses her classroom experience to make the exhibit educational and informative.

“It is Lansing history combined with Christmas. It’s a lot of fun,” Dust said. “It’s beautiful. It helps gets people in the Christmas spirit, and it’s a little bit different every year. It helps you realize how you are part of the same world celebrating even if it’s not your religion—people join in the holiday feeling and celebrate with each other.”

Dust said the German tree is one of her favorites.

“It’s beautiful. It takes more than a day to put the tinsel on it. It has the legend of the spider web and the pickle ornament,” she said. The Iceland tree is another favorite because it reminds her of a trip to Iceland she took with her husband.

“We discovered they did not dare cut down a tree because little grows in Iceland. They always made a scrawny tree out of driftwood. We have a tree like that. It includes yule lads (which are like gnomes). They come out every night for the 12 nights before Christmas and play a trick.”

The Norway tree features hand painted ornaments and a traditional costume from deceased resident Kali Morlock, whose father was from Norway.

“The costume is something she wore as a child,” Dust said.

Grace Bazylewski decorates the Polish tree at the Christmas Around the World exhibit at Lansing Public Library. The ornaments are made of paper, beads, eggshells, and other craft pieces collected throughout the year. (Photo provided)

Community involvement

Grace Bazylewski decorates the Polish tree, which follows a tradition of hanging homemade ornaments made of paper, beads, eggshells and other arty craft pieces collected throughout the year. 
“Traditionally, in Poland, Advent was the time to create new ornaments for the tree,” she said. “I follow traditional patterns and add a personalized touch. I have a collection of books on traditional folklore and traditions as source material.”

The Polish exhibit also includes dolls from Bazylewski’s mom’s collection representing regional ethnic costumes from a variety of regions in Poland.

Bazylewski feels a connection to her ethnic ancestry by participating in the festival and said it is also an opportunity to learn and celebrate the traditions of other cultures. 
“I am following a tradition of my mom who was part of the dress crew for the Museum of Science and Industry Christmas Around the World Polish Christmas tree in the 1950s and 1960s. This year I got the opportunity to help dress that tree too.”

Dust said the Lansing exhibit is a community project done by volunteers from the historical society and beyond, making it a great destination for this holiday season. She encourages school groups, Scouts, and senior citizens to make plans to visit the exhibit, which is wheelchair accessible and free.

Fast facts about Lansing’s Festival of Lights, Christmas Around the World

Dates: December 2 through January 6
Hours:

  • Mondays and Tuesdays: 6:00–8:00pm
  • Wednesdays and Thursdays: 3:00–5:00pm
  • Saturdays: 10:00am–1:00pm
  • And by appointment

Location: Lansing Public Library, Lower Level, 2750 Indiana Avenue, Lansing, Illinois
Cost: Free

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