Natural, living Christmas trees decorated to display international traditions for exhibit and inspiration are on view at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory this year.
The “Oh? Christmas Tree!” holiday show has a grand opening Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m. and will run through Jan. 3.
Just inside the conservatory, a chandelier upside down tree, a style originating in the 12th century and still hung in Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine, features apples, pears, nuts and gingerbread. Sometimes there's candy. The day after Christmas, treats from the podlazniczka are shared with children and carolers, according to a written explanation.
Apples were also a feature on the Paradise Tree, familiar to those from the English Midlands. The tree was associated with the religiously oriented mystery plays; one titled “Creation” told the story of Adam, Eve and the apple.
Amy Richards found a favorite in the Spider Tree, a fantasy tale that comes in handy when the nights are long in December. Another story round the fire in Germany and Eastern Europe features a poor, yet honest, widow working hard to keep her children clothed and fed.
When a pine tree sprouts on her dirt floor, she tends the tree, but alas, when Christmas Eve comes, the family has no money to buy a candle to honor the Christchild. During the night, spiders get busy weaving spectacular webs and on Christmas morning, those beautiful webs turn to silver and gold.
Richards and Chris Long traveled from Bourbon with their daughter, Evelynn Long, looking for a Christmas event of some kind to enjoy and found it at the conservatory. They were looking to have dinner here then wind their way through Shipshewana for another event and maybe, buy some Christmas ornaments.
“We don't have any ornaments for our tree,” Richards said.
The conservatory has its traditional giant poinsettia tree on display and huge flocked fir trees, some with just a few brilliant red birds planted on boughs in contrast to the green and white.
Honoring warmer climes where fir trees aren't prevalent, there was a Christmas banana tree lit up with stars, following the tradition of Christians in western India, a cultural holdover from Portuguese travelers. There were Pomegranates for Prosperity from Greece and a Pompom Tree from the Dominican Republic.
Mark and Tonya Hammond brought their three children to the conservatory, a first for “the kiddos,” as Mark Hammond called them, but not for him.
He recalled a family photo shoot from 30 years ago at the conservatory. It took place just inside the main doors where tall firs stand and the scent of rosemary wafts through the air from the enormous shrubs spilling over rock walls. Hammond thought there could have been 25 to 30 people in the photo.
“I can still see it on my grandma's wall,” he said. He thinks he was about the age of his older boy, Christian, 13, when it was taken.
Saturday, the Hammond family that also includes Mia, 11, and Colstan, 7, had their own professional photo shoot outside the conservatory because of the mask requirement inside.
“We wanted to come in and see all the trees,” he said.
Information on hours and prices can be found on the conservatory's website, www.botanicalconservatory.org.