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New Displays Celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa at The Corning Museum of Glass

Press Center

November 16, 2020

The holidays sparkle at The Corning Museum of Glass, where a dazzling 14’ tree made entirely out of 2,000 glass ornaments greets visitors in the Admissions Lobby. This year, our collection of décor made by the Museum’s Hot Glass Demo Team is expanding to include symbols of culturally diverse holidays. The Tree of Life Menorah celebrates Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa Setting was created for the African-American heritage celebration.

“It is important to us that our holiday offerings align with the diversity of our visitors,” said Eric Meek, Sr. Manager of Hot Glass Programs at The Corning Museum of Glass. “The Museum values diversity, equity, and inclusion, and our Hot Glass Demo Team has worked to incorporate those values into the work we display during the holiday season. It was important to us, too, that these pieces be made in collaboration with the communities they are intended to reflect, and we’re grateful to those who helped us ensure the accuracy and interpretation of these significant symbols of important celebrations.”

Tree of Life Menorah was developed in partnership with Rabbi Todd Markley of Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA, and Kwanzaa Setting was designed by the Rowe Family of Horseheads, New York.

The work is now on view through January 4, 2021.

About the Tree of Life Menorah

The menorah is a prominent symbol in the Jewish faith and plays a central role in the celebration of Hanukkah. Likewise, the “Tree of Life” carries different meanings across faiths, but holds special meaning in Judaism for its connection to the Torah, the Jewish people’s most sacred text. Genesis, the first book of the Torah, locates the “Tree of Life” at the heart of the Garden of Eden (2.4–3:24), and Proverbs 3:18 teaches: “[The Torah] is a tree of life to those who hold her close.”

The Tree of Life Menorah brings together fine leaves, sturdy branches, a thick tree trunk, and an intricate system of roots—all made possible through flameworked glass shaped over a 4,000°F torch. For many, the tree represents growth, stability, and fertility, as well as hope for and connection to future generations. The extensive roots and intertwined branches illustrate family connections.

Glass candles with flames were also created and will be added each day of Hanukkah.

About Kwanzaa Setting

The kinara, Swahili for candleholder, holds seven candles—three red on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle in the middle—that represent the seven principles that are the foundation of the African-American celebration Kwanzaa. As a new candle is lit each day, families discuss one principle’s importance and how it fosters community amongst African-Americans.

Kwanzaa Setting was designed by Jonathan Rowe of Horseheads, New York, and the Rowe Family guided and assisted the Museum’s Hot Glass Demo Team in creating the piece. The successful collaboration grew out of discussions of Kwanzaa principles, African-American history, and the state of race relations in the United States. One key principle surfaced in those conversations as the focal point for discussions of family, community, and the issues at hand: Umoja, or “Unity.”

The glass kinara represents a bridge spanning generations of African-American people, and a waterfall cascades behind it to symbolize how they all flow together. In this setting is a Kikombe cha Umoja (Unity Cup) signifying the gathering of family in celebration of a rich heritage. Behind the scene, a mirror invites the onlooker to see their reflection and contemplate what Umoja means to them.

“Although the principles of Kwanzaa were developed for African-American people to celebrate, they can apply to anyone,” said the Rowe Family. “We cannot move forward unless we do it together.”

Other Holiday Décor from the Hot Glass Demo Team

The Glass Holiday Feast is a meal most definitely too good to eat! Made entirely of glass by the Hot Glass Demo Team here at The Corning Museum of Glass, it is inspired by the warmth and kinship of sharing delicious meals throughout the holiday season. Each year, the feast grows to include new dishes cooked up by our gaffers—in molten glass instead of ingredients you’d find at the supermarket. Like home chefs, our gaffers prepare their dishes with passion and purpose, knowing that the food will be enjoyed by others. This season’s menu features old-fashioned staples such as turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and cranberry sauce. Enjoy a helping of this fantastic feast for the eyes.  

Holiday Ornament Tree has been a staple of the Museum’s holiday décor—and a backdrop for many family holiday cards—since 2008. When it was first created, it consisted of 600 glass ornaments, but has since grown to include 2,000 bulbs at a height of 14 feet. Unlike traditional trees, this one is made entirely of ornaments attached to a metal structure, and glows from within. Each glassmaker who has worked at the Museum adds an ornament to the tree.

About The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass is the foremost authority on the art, history, science, and design of glass. It is home to the world’s most important collection of glass, including the finest examples of glassmaking spanning 3,500 years. Live glassblowing demonstrations (offered at the Museum and on the road), bring the material to life. Daily Make Your Own Glass experiences at the Museum enable visitors to create work in a state-of-the-art glassmaking studio. The campus in Corning includes a year-round glassmaking school—The Studio—and the Rakow Research Library, with the world’s preeminent collection of materials on the art and history of glass. Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, the Museum is open daily, year-round. Children and teens, 17 and under, receive free admission.