SIMI VALLEY : Exhibit Focuses on the World of Christmas

Only 19 months into this world, Evann Hall gazed around with ever-widening eyes that reflected the light and the promise of many Christmases to come.

Or at least 30 versions of Christmas, each from a different land--China, Brazil, Russia--whose decorated trees left him giddy with excitement at the Christmas Around the World exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley.

"Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse," a squirming Evann cried, inaccurately, from the arms of his mother as he gazed at a galaxy of lights swirling about a Christmas tree that spoke of a land halfway around the world, Japan.

No matter that the toddler was off a bit. The ornaments featuring Mickey Mouse and other Walt Disney characters, brought to life by 1,100 blazing white lights, dangled from the plastic green limbs of a tree behind him.

His mother, 34-year-old Jenny Hall of Newbury Park, gazed at the trees lining the library hall--Ireland and Japan to one side, Iceland and Italy to another--and said, "They're gorgeous."

The exhibit, which opened Nov. 19 and continues through Jan. 9, features 30 Christmas trees that reflect the traditions of the countries that Ronald and Nancy Reagan visited during their eight years in the White House.

All mock Douglas firs, the trees differ only in the decorations--the garlands, the ornaments and the other symbols--that characterize each particular country. They were decorated by community organizations, school groups and ethnic and fraternal groups. The exhibit was privately funded.

"It's such a wonderful way to start the holiday season," said Carole Jouroyan, 52, of Glendale. "It's just breathtaking. Every tree is a work of art."

"And the prettiest one is the USA tree," said her cousin, Michael Elanjian, 72, from Philadelphia.

Moments earlier, Jouroyan had strolled down the row of firs in the adjoining hall, pausing to soak in the lights and the ornaments of trees from England and Germany, Norway and the Philippines, lost in a reverie of Christmas past and Christmas future.

Steve Tracy's interest was more practical. Appraising the "sports tree" whose limbs were loaded down with tiny baseballs, footballs and basketballs, the 26-year-old Simi Valley man said, "I'd like to buy this tree for my business." He owns MVP Sports Bar and Grill in Simi Valley, he said.

Earlier, two young Camarillo friends, 7-year-old Andrew Strickenburg and 4-year-old Brian Dixon, knelt and held hands in front of the same tree, looking up in awe.

"I like it," Andrew said in shy understatement.

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