Celebrating the Holiday Season through the Years at the CMA

By: CMA Staff

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Visiting the CMA has been a holiday tradition for families since the museum opened in 1916. In the photo blog below, take a look at visitors celebrating the season through the years.

Want to celebrate the holidays in the present day? Check out the special extended hours and pop-up bar on Saturday, December 28 and January 4. Also, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master holiday tickets are booking fast. If you want to see what the Wall Street Journal calls “nothing less than the perfect exhibition,” reserve your tickets now!

Image courtesy Robert Muller for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

During the holiday season, the museum becomes particularly festive.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

As early as the 1920s, children were invited to participate in holiday parties with all the trimmings. Pictured here, museum director William Milliken tried to artistically arrange the tykes for a picture.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Educational programming included holiday plays and masques. Artist John Paul Miller was a student in Saturday morning classes at the museum. He’s featured here, sitting on a decorative stool, in a 1929 holiday performance.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Through the years, museum staff have donated generously during the holiday season. Here staff are packing holiday baskets for the needy during the Great Depression.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

By far the most beloved museum holiday tradition was the annual community Christmas carol candlelight program, which, amazingly, featured flame-lit candles lining the armor court walls.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

From the beginning of the candlelight program in 1941, crowds numbered in the thousands.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Choirs came together in the armor court for a grand performance and Christmas carol sing-along.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

The concert concluded with the audience processing out the south doors while singing “Silent Night.” The annual concert continued until 2004.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Holiday decorations have sometimes featured live trees and crèche figures, as shown in this 1963 view of the rotunda.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

The museum continues to celebrate the holidays with the annual Winter Lights Lantern Festival at Holiday CircleFest.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Since 1994, lantern-making workshops culminate in a lantern procession at Holiday CircleFest.

Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Cleveland School artists sent holiday wishes to museum directors and staff with greeting cards of their own design. This collection of greeting cards is housed in the Museum Archives.

Botticelli’s Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist was featured in 2008. Jan Gossaert’s Virgin and Child in a Landscape was featured in 2013. Images: Virgin and Child in a Landscape, 1531. Jan Gossaert (Flemish, c. 1475/78–1532) and an Anonymous Landscape Painter (Flemish). Oil on wood; 68 x 56 x 4.5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund, 1972.47.; Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, c. 1490. Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1444/45–1510) and Workshop. Tempera and oil on wood; 115 x 12.5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund, 1970.160.

Did you know? Paintings from the collection were featured on United States Post Office holiday stamps in 2008 and 2013.

Jeptha Homer Wade II. Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art archives.

Here’s a piece of CMA holiday history: Jeptha Homer Wade II (1857–1926), a financier, philanthropist, and grandson of Jeptha H. Wade, a founder of Western Union Telegraph Company, had given the land on which to build the art museum as a Christmas gift to the city in 1892. By the time of his death, Wade had given the museum 2,855 works of art and set up a $1.3 million art purchase trust fund.


Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? Visitors of all ages will enjoy a CMA membership. Membership includes FREE admission to special exhibitions and discounts throughout the museum. Already a member? Purchase a new gift membership for your friends or family and receive 20% off. Each gift membership package contains a coupon to redeem a FREE tote bag.

Want to see more historical images of the museum? Visit the museum’s online archives.

However you celebrate the holidays this year, the CMA wishes you a beautiful time of reflection, love, and light. Hope to see you soon.

CMA Thinker

Art from another angle: Stories from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Cleveland Museum of Art

Written by

CMA Thinker

Art from another angle: Stories from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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