The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History

When my alarm went off this morning, I awoke to Light FM playing Christmas music—Transiberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve in Sarajevo”, to be exact. I groaned, partly because it felt too early for Christmas music, but mostly because I didn’t want to get up yet. It’d be hypocritical of me to really be annoyed when I was excited to realize one of my favorite new holiday traditions kicked off today.

A few years ago I visited the American Museum of Natural History just after New Years, and on that visit I was introduced to the Origami Tree. For the last forty years, volunteers have folded hundreds of origami objects and used them to decorate a Christmas tree within the museum. Last year the tree featured various groups of animals—herds, flights, even a parliament of owls. Another year the tree honored the collections of the museum and had everything from dinosaurs to space shuttles.
I’ve always loved origami, though cranes, fortune tellers, boxes, cups, and really bad water lilies are the only things I can make without instructions in front of me. The origami pieces adorning the tree are works of art. Often there will be a volunteer nearby who is happy to talk about paper folding; one told me that the rounded heads of some of the animals were created by wetting the paper. The intricate details of the different objects, the delicacy the folds, and the perfection of the final products all fascinate me, and I’m sure I’ll be going to visit the tree for years to come, just to see what these artists come up with next.
Today was the first day this year’s tree was available for viewing. It’s located in the Grand Gallery on the first floor. According to the museum’s website, the theme is Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful, a reference to a new exhibit called The Power of Poison. I haven’t been to visit yet, but I’ll be sure to make my way up there before January 12. If you’re in the city this weekend and want to kick off the Christmas season without braving the Thanksgiving Day Parade, consider a trip to the American Museum of Natural History—and say hi to the dinosaurs for me while you’re there.
Now that you’ve heard one (of many) of mine, what are your favorite NYC holiday traditions?

ETA: On December 8, I went to see the tree! Here are some photos.


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