Charlotte Cades and Rudolph Abel performing A Christmas Devotion, December 20, 1942.
During holiday seasons past, HoMA’s members’ magazine—called News Bulletin and Calendar back then—would usually feature one of these collection highlights: the 14th-century Italian triptych, the 14th-century French stone Madonna, Albert Bouts’s 16th-century The Holy Family, Vincenzo Catena’s 16th-century Madonna and Child.
As might be expected from an institution full of working artists, there were also plenty of collaborative, modern, and often quirky interpretations of the season.
A 1947 Christmas display created around Giorgio de Chirico’s Le Grande Mécanique.
In 1942, for example, the museum presented a children’s nativity play choreographed by Josephine Taylor, a student of Martha Graham. In 1945, Punahou students staged the Christmas morality play Christus Parvulus in the Central Courtyard. The play’s costume designer? Hawaiʻi artist Juliette May Fraser. Subsequent Christmas displays included a “surrealist” tree, complete with sea urchins, crab legs, and feathers; and a tableau of gift wrapping staged around Giorgio de Chirico’s Le Grande Mécanique.
As times changed, so, too, did the programming. The “Christmas ’70” event, intended for children “and their elders,” incorporated, light, sound, shadow play, and “do-it-yourself surprise happenings.”