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One Tank Trip: Yuletide Around the World – Festival of Trees

One Tank Trip: Yuletide Around the...

READING, Pa. - Germany, circa 1602. The first recorded instance of an evergreen being brought into a home, and we've been shoving them through the front door ever since.

This time of year, those who celebrate Christmas usually have one or more trees. 

"You can see yourself being transported to a classic home for the holidays," explained John Graydon Smith, the director and CEO of the Reading Public Museum.

"Yuletide Around the World: Festival of Trees" runs through January 22 at the Reading Public Museum. There are six trees and six cultures celebrated. Each one is decked out by community organizations, giving us insight into how others honor Christmas.

"We don't cover the entire map," Smith said.

But they get around. The map the museum hands out details the holiday hunt.

"Each tree takes on its own personality, which is really cool," Smith said. "So right now, we're in the pre-Columbian Latin American gallery."

There's quite a celebration there, with fireworks above the tree. Poinsettias are common there, too. The plant flourished in an area of southern Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who placed the weeds in front of the altar to celebrate Jesus' birth. Crimson blossoms sprouted from those weeds now known as poinsettias. The ones on display in the museum were grown in the museum's greenhouse.

A tree in the corner of the Ancient Civilizations gallery is next to ancient Greek urns, which is a sentimental nod to the founders of the museum, who had strong ties to Greece.

It's right next to the Pennsylvania German gallery, where many ornaments abound.

"Many of them have been hand made, and they're really just strikingly beautiful," Smith described. "You'll find a lot of iconic imagery that you'd see from driving around some of the back roads of the country, as well."

Trees are situated throughout the museum, next to art you might miss. A portrait of St. Lucy is one of the museum's newest acquisitions, and it's in the permanent art gallery.

"I'm not sure you'd see a tree decorated like this in Italy, but it's very evocative of a lot of the things that we think of," Smith said. "There's wine bottles. There's prosciutto. There's pizza."

"We've moved on to our founders gallery," Smith continued. "This was an opportunity for us to really delve in to the collection, and as it turns out, we have only one painting by an Irish artist."

Untitled by George Henry Jenkins is a stunning oil on canvas of the Irish coast.

And back perhaps to where it all began, to that idea of a tree inside. A German tree next to an Oswald Achenbach.


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