Believe it or not, there was a time when people didn't decorate their front yards with light-up, animatronic reindeer and giant inflatable Santa Clauses. In fact, once, long, long ago, there were no NASCAR or talking Star Trek Christmas tree ornaments. This might also come as a shock, but children didn't used to ask for new-fangled Nintendos, Sesame Street toys that demand to be tickled, and million-piece Lego sets. No, long before the era of neighborhood house-decorating contests and Toys 'R' Us catalogs, the holidays were celebrated in an entirely different way. The MIA's annual "Holiday Traditions" show is a blast from the jolly past with several rooms decorated as they would have been in various cultures at holiday times. There's a 1770s Hanukkah room from Providence, Rhode Island; an English Tudor feast; and an old-timey drawing room complete with card table and harp. And while you're bathed in holiday joy from the days of yore, hop on the MIA bus to the Institute's Prucell-Cutts house, a 1913 home decorated for the season. Don't worry, after the refreshing reminder of Christmas past, you can get back to contemporary Christmas with all its stress, decorating, and buying crap.
Nov. 28-Jan. 11, 2008