How did favorite holiday traditions, such as kissing under the mistletoe and gift giving, originate throughout the world? Find out this December at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point's Allen F. Blocher Planetarium.
Two programs, "Winter Wonders" and "Season of Light," will be shown on Sundays, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, at 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. respectively. Both are open to the public free of charge.
"Winter Wonders" looks at Christian and Jewish religious events during the winter season as well as rituals of cultures that originate from solstice observances. The program also explores the customs of Native Americans, Inuit, Incans and the people of central Africa and China. It closes with a look at monuments built by prehistoric people to celebrate the winter solstice.
"Season of Light" traces the development of many well-known holiday customs including burning of yule logs, hanging Christmas lights and lighting the Menorah and luminaries. The program also explores holiday customs from other cultures and parts of the world. The show features appearances by St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas and Santa Claus while illuminating the lighter side of holiday gift giving, mistletoe and decorations. Finally, "Season of Light" will present possible astronomical explanations for the appearance of the Christmas Star.
Planetarium seating is first come, first served for up to 55 people. Groups of 15 or more may schedule a special showing of any planetarium program by calling 715-346-2208 or completing an online request form at www.uwsp.edu/physastr/plan_obs. There is a cost of $25 per group for these presentations.
On Monday evenings, the "Night Sky" program is offered at 8 p.m. in the planetarium to look in detail at objects in the current night sky. The Arthur J. Pejsa Observatory telescope is open for free viewings from 8:30-10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday evenings if the skies are clear and the temperature is above 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
The planetarium and observatory are located on the second and fourth floor of the UW-Stevens Point Science Building at the corner of Reserve Street and Fourth Avenue. Parking is available in Lot D behind the building and is free in all university lots after 7 p.m. and on weekends.