Celebrating the Holidays with International Traditions
One of my favorite places to go is Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. There is so much to see and do there – from indoor art exhibits and a warm, sultry tropical conservatory - to the outdoor sculpture garden, acres of pathways amidst nature’s bright colors, and enough treasures tucked around corners to delight everyone. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Meijer Gardens offers art, culture, music, butterflies – and, once a year, a chance to learn about global holiday traditions. It’s one of my very favorite things to do each holiday season, as it connects me with a larger, more international sense of celebrations.
The Meijer Gardens annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions around the World exhibit runs from November 20th through January 6th. During this time, expect over 75,000 visitors – both newcomers, and old timers (like us) that want to experience the magic all over again. From the plethora of poinsettias to the sparkling international trees, this is one travel experience you won't forget. And while you can certainly spend a whole day there, it’s also a nice break from shopping, and to destress and get in the holiday spirit. Here’s what you can see:
A favorite for all visitors is the Railway Garden. It runs through the indoor gardens, and features landmark buildings from the Grand Rapids area. It’s soothing, to sit in the warmth and listen to the train run by! “Year after year, the Railway Garden has always held a special place in the hearts of visitors, including my own,” said Director of Horticulture Steve LaWarre. “As you step under the arched bridge and into the garden, size and scale is forgotten as the scent of cedar and the luxuriant flora surrounds you—it’s truly magical.”
Railway Garden photo courtesy of Meijer Gardens, copyright William J. Hebert
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But the highlight, for me, of the Holiday Traditions exhibit, is the variety of trees. There are over 42 geographically themed trees and displays! They represent countries and cultures from all over the world. You might love the Germany tree, which features handmade glass ornaments and homemade springerle cookies! The Victorian Christmas tree has 1,000 ornaments, and traditionally shared a family’s personal history, current and past events, and religious symbols. The Eid al-Fitr display celebrates the end of Ramadan. You can see celebrations from around the world, from Africa to Vietnam, and learn about holiday rituals and celebrations in five major faiths (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism). I could (and do) stand and look for hours, learning what is important to each culture, and thinking about how we all celebrate things in different ways.