Frederik Meijer Gardens wraps up annual holiday exhibit

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Omari Seaberry, Staff Writer

Frederik Meijer Gardens’ 28th annual holiday exhibit, “Christmas & Holiday Traditions,” recently concluded with the holiday season.

In partnership with the University of Michigan Health-West, Frederik Meijer Gardens put together an event showcasing 46 unique displays of holiday traditions from all over the world. 

Running from Nov. 22 to Jan. 8, the festive collection is exclusive to the holiday season.

Holidays such as Ramadan, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah were celebrated throughout the exhibit, spanning across 158 acres of botanical gardens. At the exhibit, visitors could enjoy the holidays while also learning more about how cultures from around the world celebrate the season.

Vice President of Horticulture Steve LaWarre said the displays were placed on the grounds along with 350,000 lights. He said the staff was meticulous in their decorative process. 

“We wanted to make sure that we were representative of the whole community,” LaWarre said. “We based our selections on the diversity that each brings to the exhibit.”

Giving exposure to unique traditions was important for Frederick Meijer Gardens, as they hoped to represent not only the diversity of the cultural traditions around the world, but the diversity of the many communities within Grand Rapids.

“One of the things I love to do is listen to people as they walk through the exhibit and hear them call back to their past after being reminded by some of our art,” LaWarre said. “I love the feeling of giving people a sense of comfort when they are away from their usual settings.”

This event was correlated with the Meijer Gardens’ Seasonal Light Experience, which showcased the ways in which diverse cultures use light to uplift hope, remembrance, gratitude and prosperity during the time of the year when it gets darker earlier in the day.

The head curator for the Christmas & Holiday Traditions exhibit was Suzanne Ramljak. Along with others, she made sure that the trees, art and sculptures were up to par with the theme of the event. 

“The holidays bring people together in distinct and memorable ways that are difficult to capture in a display, so we wanted to make sure that our displays really captured the essence of togetherness and the joy that the holidays bring,” Ramljak said.

Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, was one of the many featured traditions. It is a significant celebration among Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists between mid-October and mid-November.

Diwali is celebrated through festive fireworks, lights and other vibrant decorations with special worship known as “puja.” The meaning behind Diwali is to “rejoice the inner light,” symbolized by lighting a “diya,” a small brass lamp.

The main priority for the gardens was to capture the nuance and significance of each winter holiday tradition.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and the University of Michigan Health-West also received help with the project through one of their sponsored partnerships with Warner.