In its Weekend section, the Washington Post has published a list of holiday-themed activities to do every day from November 27 (the day before Thanksgiving) to December 26 (the day after Christmas). These activities include several museums and similar sites: the Post would send readers to the United States Botanic Garden on November 28, Brookside Gardens on November 29, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting on December 3, Sixth and I Historic Synagogue on December 4, and Heurich House Museum on December 7.
The USBG offering that the Washington Post recommends on Thursday, November 28 (Thanksgiving) is the opening of Season’s Greenings, the garden’s annual plant-based winter holiday wonderland. Having been several times in past years, I can attest to its loveliness. Although a great many places decorate with sparkling lights and miniature train displays, USBG does so in a way that is unique and relevant to its content area. The tiny fairy lands and models of DC iconic buildings have all been made of plant materials year after year, the displays feature poinsettias and evergreens, and visitors learn about the many plants that play a role in December holiday traditions. This year, there will be a World’s Fair theme, and like previous years, there will be concerts of Christmas and Hanukkah music some evenings throughout the season.
Museums vary: some are open on Thanksgiving, some are not. The USBG is open every day of the year. The Smithsonians are open every day but Christmas, the National Gallery of Art every day but Christmas and New Year’s Day, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum every day but Yom Kippur and Christmas. The Newseum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
At my various museum jobs, I have worked on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and various other holidays, though never Thanksgiving or Christmas. In deciding whether to open on holidays, museums are tasked with balancing the desires of out-of-town relatives looking for something fun to do with their families on vacation, and the desires of their own employees to be with their own families.
This year, one of my family members will have to rush from Thanksgiving dinner to his retail job. The encroachment of Black Friday shopping onto Thanksgiving Day itself has been a topic in the news and online petitions, while the fact that other non-critical industries like museums, movie theaters, and restaurants are often open receives less attention.
What do you think? Should museums be open on Thanksgiving?