O Tannenbaum! The HMNS halls are officially decked — see it in pictures!

They’re here! The trees have arrived, and they look absolutely fabulous!

The decorators arrived at 9 a.m. Friday morning and began to gussy up the trees amid carolers, cookies and kids — lots and lots of kids. What is just out of the frame of the picture below is the 1,500 kids that arrived on field trips while the decorating was underway. All in all, a busy morning at HMNS!

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012We hope you can come in to see the trees in person, but in the meantime, here are a couple of my favorites:

Oh, The Webs We Weave

I like bugs, so I was immediately drawn to the spider webs on this tree.  The story next to the tree explains why the spider is associated with a traditional Ukrainian Christmas.

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012

Every Critter Under the Sun

This next tree was decorated by the Museum’s volunteer guild, which is also responsible for organizing the holiday tree project. I love the colors, and most of all I love the fact that nearly every known critter is represented on the tree!  Where else can you find a Christmas tree with crayfish and coelacanths, I ask?

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012

Shell We Celebrate?

The Houston Conchology Society always has a beautiful tree, and this year is no exception! Each of the letters and snowflakes are covered in tiny shells like those used in sailor’s valentines.

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012And, drum roll please . . . the tree you may (or may not) have been waiting for . . .

Let’s Get Chemical

HMNS Holiday Trees 2012If you look carefully at our chemistry tree, you can just make out the “H P P Y Ho Li Dy S” banner made up of element symbols for Hydrogen, Phosphorus, Yttrium Holmium, Lithium, Dysprosium and Sulfur.

If you have no idea what Holmium is or what Yttrium can be used for, you should check out the Welch Chemistry Hall. Can’t make it in? Learn how to make these fun chemistry crafts here or check out some fun chemistry kits at the Museum Store — now online just in time for the holidays.

Have a chemical Christmas with these chemistry-themed holiday crafts

In our department, you can’t escape science – not even for the holidays.

Have a chemical Christmas at HMNSEvery year during the holiday season, the museum provides pine trees to local non-profits to decorate and spread their organization’s message. Our department is usually given a tree to decorate in a manner that expresses some aspect of the museum.

This year, we have dedicated our tree to chemistry, as we will have a revamped Chemistry Hall in the near future and want to celebrate. And because we know you like science as much as we do, we have compiled all sorts of fun kid- (and adult) friendly chemistry projects that you can do at home. Ours have all been made into ornaments for our tree, but the sky’s the limit!

Check out these links and have your own Chemical Christmas:

Marvelous Marbled Ornaments
Christmas Chromatography
Borax Crystal Ornaments
Amazing Snow Powder
How Does the Periodic Table of Elements Work?

Want to come check out the trees for yourself? Visit the museum from Nov. 30th through the first week of January. Can’t make it? Stay tuned for pictures of all the trees the first week of December!

But in the meantime, enjoy the trees from previous years and this chemist’s version of a holiday classic, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” John F. Hansen’s version appeared in the St. Louis section of the American Chemical Society in 1978.

‘Twas the night to make crystals, and all through the ‘hood,
Compounds were reacting as I’d hoped that they would.
The hood door I’d closed with the greatest of care,
To keep noxious vapors from fouling the air.

The reflux condenser was hooked to the tap,
And the high vacuum pump had a freshly filled trap.
I patiently waited to finish my task,
While boiling chips merrily danced in the flask.

Then from the pump there arose such a clatter,
That I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the fume hood! Up with the door!
And half of my product foamed out on the floor.

Then what to my watering eyes should appear,
But a viscous black oil which had once been so clear.
I turned the pump off in a terrible rush,
And the oil that sucked back filled the line up with mush.

The ether boiled out of the flask with a splash,
And hitting the mantle, went up with a flash!
My nose turned quite ruddy, my eyebrows went bare,
The blast had singed off nearly half of my hair.

I shut the hood door with a violent wrench,
As acid burned holes in the floor and the bench.
I flushed it with water, and to my dismay,
Found sodium hydride had spilled into the fray.

And then the fire got way out of hand,
I managed to quench it with buckets of sand.
With aqueous base I diluted the crud,
Then shoveled up seven big buckets of mud.

I extracted the slurry again and again
With ether and then with dichloromethane.
Chormatographic techniques were applied
Several times ’til the product was purified.

I finally viewed with a satisfied smile,
One half a gram in a shiny new vial.
I mailed the yield report to my boss,
Ninety percent (allowing for loss).

“Good work,” said the boss in the answering mail,
“Use same condition on a preparative scale.”