For millions of people the world over, the annual visit to a department store to view the festive window displays and visit Santa in his winter wonderland is a treasured holiday tradition. In America, the Thanksgiving holiday is almost inconceivable with-out Macy's annual parade. But how did holiday traditions like this begin? Who are the behind-the-scenes magicians that conjure up this unique blend of imagination, showmanship, and salesmanship?
Holidays on Display is a comprehensive overview of the art and industry of the holiday display. Author William L. Bird, Jr., traces its evolution as holiday decorations moved from shop windows to building exteriors and out into the street in the form of parade floats. In this fascinating and colorful history we are introduced to turn-of-the-century "trimmers" hired by merchants to maintain product displays, and we marvel as advances in lighting, animation, and miniaturization lead to the incredible feats of creative self-expression practiced by today's window artists. Packed with rarely seen photographs and ephemera, Holidays on Display makes it easy to see why we have such lasting emotional attachments to animated Christmas windows, passing parades, and the ambient glow of holiday lights.
Holly Morris: American History Museum, MyFOXDC:
"Santa Claus is making an early appearance to open a new exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on the art and business of commercial holiday displays. The exhibit is a first for the museum and opens Friday. It covers the elaborate department store windows and retail displays dating back to the 1920s, as well as the creation of floats for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.During its heyday in the 1950s, the Woodward and Lothrop department store in D.C. was known to have featured live penguins in a window display. The exhibit follows the research of curator William Bird who examined the history of holiday displays from the early 20th century in a companion book."
— Holly Morris
The Holiday Shelf, The Midwest Book Review:
"Holidays on Display provides a vivid set of color photos capturing department store festive window displays and reviews the overall art of the holiday display. The author traces this displays changes from basic holiday decorations to works of art, floats, and more, offering a fine history of rare photos and ephemera in the process. Any library strong in holiday art needs this."
— Diane C. Donovan
The Smithsonians window into holiday displays past, The Washington Post:
"Such sights, of course, are still visible in certain major cities, but the heyday of elaborate store decorations and seasonal parades is clearly behind us, so much so that a review of the best of the tradition is now something you'd find in a museum. Which may be one reason the National Museum of American History created Holidays on Display, an exhibition that opened Friday. Composed mainly of photographs and illustrations, the show looks at the art and business behind such seasonal spectacles as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Miss America Pageant boardwalk parade, even the Washington Monument Centennial Celebration in 1948. "
— Jacqueline Trescott
Required Reading, CYMK:
"a loving paean to department store festivity and a design history of retail display particular to the winter months."
Decorating for the Holidays, We Love DC:
"The holidays are a time of excess, from decorations and food to parades and retail displays. We splurge on gifts, we make rich feasts for friends and family; we gather close to the people we love, seeking comfort in midwinter. The Smithsonian invited Santa & Mrs. Clause and Twinkle the Elf to the National Museum of American History to open a new small exhibit on the Holidays. Focused on Parades of all seasons, from Tournament of Roses through to Macys Thanksgiving, and the retail window displays of department stores (something of a relic to those of us under 40) all across the US, the new exhibit has photos and artifacts from holiday celebrations across the country."
— Tom Bridge