The holidays are a time of excess, from decorations and food to parades and retail displays. We splurge on gifts, we make rich feasts for friends and family; we gather close to the people we love, seeking comfort in midwinter. The Smithsonian invited Santa & Mrs. Clause and Twinkle the Elf to the National Museum of American History to open a new small exhibit on the Holidays. Focused on Parades of all seasons, from Tournament of Roses through to Macy’s Thanksgiving, and the retail window displays of department stores (something of a relic to those of us under 40) all across the US, the new exhibit has photos and artifacts from holiday celebrations across the country.
The exhibit is fairly small, just a couple rooms, but what’s contained therein will snap you right out of your Fall Funk and propel you right into Holiday prep. On Wednesday, I was grumpy as hell, seeing the Wal-mart Christmas ads on television already, but last night, that disappointment was absent. Was it the joy in the kids’ eyes, watching Mrs. Claus read a story? Maybe it melted my grinchy heart. Holidays on Display runs for a whole year, on the Third floor, on the West side of the museum.
There’s a companion volume of the same name put out by the museum that has some fascinating history that’s DC-specific, including whole sections on the displays at Woodward & Lothrop, which were deeply memorable. Look for an interview with Mr. Bird in the coming weeks.