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Annual Christmas Tree Display at Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History Celebrates Santas of the World December, 1998 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture was filled with five, towering, 23-foot trees decorated with hundreds of handmade ornaments depicting Santas from five cultures, from Thursday, December 3, 1998 through Thursday, January 7, 1999. These trees provided a breathtaking backdrop for holiday programs at Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.

For more than 25 years, the annual Christmas Tree display has been a gift of the Women's Committee of Carnegie Museum of Art and has become a holiday tradition for many area families. Approximately 45 committee members worked diligently for months to create decorations expressing this year's theme, "Santas of the World." Santas representing Pittsburgh/United States, the Byzantine Empire, Mexico, Italy and Holland are featured. Each tree looks at how different cultures interpret Santa as a benefactor who brings gifts to the good children of the world.

The Pittsburgh/United States tree features Santa as the familiar large, jolly old man in a red suit with eight reindeer. The original Saint Nicholas was born seventeen centuries ago in the town of Parara near Turkey and is depicted on the Byzantine Empire tree. The gift giver in Mexico is a saint-like man with a long white beard dressed in a flowing white robe. The Italian tree depicts Santa as the wistful female witch Befana. Sinter Klaas is represented on the Holland tree also as Saint Nicholas, a tall dignified, bearded, white-haired old man dressed as a Bishop complete with cloak, miter and pastoral staff. The Holland tree will be topped by a working windmill.

On Monday, November 30, flatbed trucks loaded with the freshly cut trees arrived at the museums. A crew of eight men manually lifted each tree through the Carriage Drive entrance doors and up the monumental stairs to the Hall of Architecture. A crane set the trees in place and Women's Committee volunteers began a two-and-a-half day decorating marathon.

The Christmas Tree display was co-chaired by Women's Committee members Susette Stone and Janice Burchfield. Individual tree chairpersons were Gretchen Schmertz Jacob and Ginny Starr for the Pittsburgh/United States tree; Lowrie Ebbert and Mernie Berger for the Byzantine Empire tree; Carole Kamin for the Mexican tree; Kate Gaier for the Italian tree; and Ann Wertz and Sally Randall for the Holland tree. The trees were donated by Women's Committee member B.G. Alexander from her Somerset County farm.