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Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World at Meijer Gardens ignites holiday spirit

A visit to Meijer Gardens to see the trees is a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. This year's exhibit is open now until January 6, 2019.
The tree representing the United States of America.

The tree representing the United States of America. /Kiran Sood Patel

Canada's Christmas tree.

Canada's Christmas tree. /Kiran Sood Patel

A closer look at the ornaments on Mexico's Christmas tree.

A closer look at the ornaments on Mexico's Christmas tree. /Kiran Sood Patel

Tuesday morning, I felt like a kid at Christmas. When we decided we were going to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to see the “Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition” that night, I began impatiently awaiting our trip all day.

The exhibit officially opened to the public that very day and I couldn’t wait to experience it for the second year in a row.

The first tree you will see upon arrival is the tree from the United States of America. It’s covered with brightly colored spheres and features the popular Elf on the Shelf.

From there, visitors will see gorgeous exhibits and holiday displays from countries around the world – there are 42 total.

One of my favorite trees was the Canada tree, which is decorated with bright red maple leaves, pinecones, bears and owls. The tree from Mexico has colorful piñatas and sombrero ornaments. I stopped to read the description of each tree and then look closely at the ornaments, which gave me the chance to learn about unique traditions from around the world.

The beautiful tree from Denmark is adorned with festive heart-shaped ornaments. According to the nearby description, “In Denmark, a traditional Christmas tree, or Juletrae, is decorated with many handmade ornaments. The entire family participates in an annual craft day, producing heart-shaped, woven-paper baskets often filled with special treats.”

We were in luck that night as our visit was enhanced by the sweet sounds of the Original Dickens Carolers throughout the venue. Adults, families and children gathered and some even sat on the ground to listen to the carols.

In addition to the trees, I loved seeing the Railway Garden exhibition. Once again, I channeled my inner child and eagerly awaited when the train would pass by overhead. The exhibition features multiple recreations of major buildings and locations throughout Grand Rapids that are magnificent. Don’t miss seeing Fifth Third Ballpark, St. Cecilia Music Center and Fish Ladder Park. If you time it perfectly, you’ll be able to see the train chugging along while you admire the miniature models.

Some of the holiday displays are not traditional trees. The exhibit representing India celebrates Diwali, our Indian New Year and Festival of Lights that I grew up observing. Homes are decorated with rangolis, which are colorful powder displays and diyas, a lamp or candle designed to attract good spirits into your life.  

I left the Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition in awe of the beauty I saw and experienced. I left thankful for the opportunity to have such an incredible venue in my own backyard that offers constantly changing exhibits year round that inspire and educate. I also left grateful for my own family holiday traditions and the opportunity to combine the culture and background from my own upbringing.

If you want to see and experience the magic at Meijer Gardens this holiday season, the exhibit is open now until January 6, 2019.

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