The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History

First posted on November 26, 2013. Revised with current information. 

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 is about to start.

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. In 2012 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. Last year there was an ode to poisons, because of an exhibition that was on.


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.

Next Monday, November 24, is the first day this year’s tree was available for viewing. It’s located in the Grand Gallery on the first floor.  This year’s theme is Origami Night at the Museum, a reference to the movie Night at the Museum, and spotlights items and people (including Teddy Roosevelt!) that play roles in the movie. I haven’t been to visit yet, but I’ll be sure to make my way up there before January 11. If you’re in the city over Thanksgiving and want to kick off the holiday 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?


2 thoughts on “The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History

  1. Pingback: A City Singing at Christmas concert, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 12/18 | Noted in NYC

  2. Pingback: The Angel Tree at the Met | Noted in NYC

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