Society features

The Lansing Historical Society offers a festival of lights

The Lansing Historical Society Museum, which is the lower level of the Lansing Public Library, has housed an annual Holiday Wonderland for four decades.

A grand opening for Festival of Lights, Christmas Trees Around the World takes place on November 28 upstairs in the library and features a free concert by choirs from Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing and Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City .

Hours of operation are 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, except December 26 and January 2, 2023, and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, except December 24 and 31.

“It’ll be the kickoff, and then we’ll all come down to see the trees,” said Barb Dust, who served as curator of the Lansing Historical Society Museum for 11 years.

She added that the 40 exhibits of Festival of Lights, Christmas Trees Around the World represent 30 cultures and occupy 90% of the museum’s 3,500 square feet.

“We always do something different. This year we are adding a Ukrainian tree and a Czech tree because one of the high school students who came to help put all these trees together asked if we were making a Czech tree. His grandmother was from what was Czechoslovakia, so I said, ‘Let’s do some research,'” Dust said.

“Last year we added the beautiful dollhouse that belonged to one of our former curators. Of course there are decorations and it lights up too.

Festival of Lights, Christmas Trees Around the World – which began in 1981 and only took off in 2020 – features trees representing places such as Africa, Ecuador, France, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia and Sweden.

“People change a little every year. The lady doing the Indian tree dressed the model in a different saree this time from last year and the sarees are beautiful. We have other ethnic costumes,” Dust of Lansing said.

“For people who like to read, at the museum we have a lot of explanations about the different customs of the countries, the foods, the dinners they serve, and little stories and legends that go along with certain customs, so there’s a lot to read on Christmas customs.

“We have a small forest of Native American trees. Plus we have old school toys and lots of vintage toys to go on our Santa’s sleigh.

Festival of Lights, Christmas Trees Around the World also features exhibits for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and on the history of the Christmas tree and community organizations including the Lansing Association for Community Events and LARC, which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s a joyful experience and it helps you appreciate the unity of a lot of people at this time of year celebrating together,” Dust said.

She noted that there were almost 100 members of the society.

“It’s a great way to feel involved in your community, to know you’re contributing to your community, and to meet new people,” Dust said.

“We can learn so much from history and realize who we are and what we have in common. Lansing has always been a hard-working place. We have working-class roots. A lot of people can relate to that.

“We are constantly learning the history of this area – Lansing and the surrounding communities – and preserving it for the future, but also educating current residents about what the heritage of this place was and trying to include all the people who have come in and include them in our story.

“We have a lot of diversity at Lansing and that’s why we show it.”

Group tours for Festival of Lights, Christmas Trees Around the World are available by contacting Dust at 708-474-7497.

“Usually, I give the tours and tell the customs rather than reading everything because I really like doing that. For children’s visits, we offer hands-on activities that accompany the tree stories,” said Barb Dust.

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“Tours can be at other times for groups after school or when the kids are on vacation they can come during the day just by calling me and arranging the tour.”

Festival of Lights, Christmas trees from around the world

When: 28 Nov-Jan 5, 2023

Where: Lansing Historical Society Museum on the lower level of the Lansing Public Library, 2750 Indiana Ave., Lansing

Tickets: free

Information: 708-474-2447 ext. 176;

Jessi Virtusio is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.