A Smithsonian Holiday Season | The Washington Center

A Smithsonian Holiday Season

If there is something I am (paradoxically) simultaneously ashamed and unashamed about, it's how much I love the winter holiday season. I understand that the holidays have become a giant marketing campaign, the epitome of ruthless capitalism, and, worst of all, the most traumatic and triggering time of year for way too many people. However, at the risk of sounding heartless and selfish, the prospect of fluffy snow and jingling bells makes my heart sing. Mannheim Steamroller, The Polar Express, cozy scarves, strings of soft lights, the brisk scent of pine - I'm all about it. Now that it's December and Washington, D.C. is finally starting to chill out, I've been able to whip out my layers and sweaters and knitting with unabashed glee. I've spent many winters and holiday seasons back home up in Boston, but how does Washington, D.C. do the holidays?

 

There are some obvious answers to this question. The National Christmas Tree Lighting is a big deal, and the person who sat next to me in my LEAD session on Friday morning croaked out that it was well worth attending despite the sickness that had invaded his throat. Around the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Downtown Holiday Market has popped up with plenty of handmade goods and warm treats to delight everyone. Even the office buildings around where I work have decked their pristine halls with wreaths, garlands and decorated trees. It's the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone is out in full swing to ensure that no one forgets it.

 

Holiday decorations at the National Museum of American History

 

One event that I didn't hear anyone talking about though was the Smithsonian Holiday Festival, which took place this past Saturday and Sunday. The Smithsonian Holiday Festival is the culmination of the efforts of multiple Smithsonian institutions to bring free holiday-themed programming and events to the public. When I walked into the National Museum of American History this Saturday, I immediately could see and feel that their efforts had paid off. The lobby was decorated with beautiful pines and ribbons and lights. Cases full of old toys and nostalgia were on display. Showtimes for The Muppet Christmas Carol were flashing up near the theater. There was even a demonstration about the making of hot colonial drinking chocolate ("From Bean to Bar: Mars Chocolate Demonstration") complete with samples of hot drinking chocolate for all to taste!

 

The five stages of preparing drinking chocolate.

 

Best of all though was the U.S. Air Force Band High Flight Performance happening in the National Museum of American History's Flag Hall. Surrounded by potted poinsettias, glimmering garlands and a towering tree, the five-member band performed beautiful renditions of holiday songs that brought a smile to everyone's faces and stopped visitors in their tracks. Even from above, standing in the walkways of the higher levels, people stopped to listen and enjoy the heartfelt holiday music that we were all so lucky to be hearing live. I personally fell in love with their cover of a James Taylor holiday song, although I admit that I am very biased because I adore James Taylor.

 

A U.S. Air Force Band High Flight Performance at the National Museum of American History.

 

So, what is the point of me telling you all of this, since the Smithsonian Holiday Festival will have ended by the time you read this? It only lasted for this first weekend of December, after all. The point is that you should always check out your local museum's programming. Keep up to date with your local museums' calendars and keep an eye out for special events and programming that might interest you - especially with winter break coming up, many museums have some of their best programming at this time of year! This isn't to say that museums aren't busy coming up with enriching programs all year - on the contrary, museums work all year long to provide free, fresh and fun programs and events that are engaging, enriching and educational to the public - but I know that many museums provide some of their most popular programming and events around December. This means that now's the time to get out there and support your local museum! At the very least, you might get some free drinking chocolate.

 

Happy holidays and happy museum visiting!

 

 

Read Adrienne's previous blog posts here

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