Victorian Santa Claus
Tortoise Tales: Newsletter of the
Hi-Desert Nature Museum

Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays from the staff at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum!
Lynne, Stefanie, Janine, and Crystal 
Winter Lecture - History of the Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree


This entertaining lecture, presented by Stefanie Ritter, curator of the "Season of Light" exhibition, will follow the history of the Christmas tree from its beginnings in 8th century Germany with St. Boniface to today's America, where over 25 million real Christmas trees are sold every year.  


Thursday, December 15, starting at Noon

FREE Admission

Enjoy a hot beverage and Christmas cookies while you relax for an hour during this busy time of the year.  

Current Exhibition - Season of Light

CandlesDecember is a time when people all over the world celebrate holidays.  Learn about the different customs of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Bodhi Day.  Discover the history and origins of the different holidays.  Visit this exhibition to help celebrate and enjoy the season! 


On Display through December 22

Science Saturdays

Human BrainJoin us for days of discovery during Science Saturdays.  These programs will ignite your children's curiosity by presenting information and performing experiments relating to biological and physical sciences.  All programs will be facilitated by our Museum Educator.  It is recommended that children be of school age for this program.



11:00 - 11:30 a.m.

FREE! No pre-registration required

December 10: The Human Brain

January 7: Magnetism

Kids Holiday Craft Program

Christmas CraftsJoin us for craft fun!  Kids will make holiday-themed crafts to keep or to give as gifts.  


Saturday, December 17,

11:00 a.m. - Noon



FREE, and materials provided, but space is limited

Pre-registration is required

Call (760) 369-7212 to register or visit our web site

1st Wednesday Program - Gunsmoke Night! 

GunsmokeLocal author Ben Costello will be joining author and film historian Julie Ann Ream for GUNSMOKE NIGHT - a tribute to the legendary western television show presented by the Morongo Basin Historical Society.  Julie was born in Hollywood; her grandfather was Taylor "Cactus Mack" McPeters and she is related to Rex Allen and Glenn Strange, who played Sam the bartender on Gunsmoke.  Ben wrote the award-winning book Gunsmoke: An American Institution and together, both he and Julie contributed to the book Perfectly Amanda, the story of Amanda Blake who played Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke.  Ben and Julie have plenty of stories to share, and special Hollywood guests who worked for the show on both sides of the camera will be attending to add their perspectives on Gunsmoke


Wednesday, January 4, starting at 5:30 p.m.

$5 donation to the MBHS at the door

Critter Club!

Baby TortoiseDo you love the museum's mini-zoo animals and wish you could get up close and personal with some of them?  Now you can!  The museum will be holding a Critter Club event with Museum Biologist Stefanie Ritter.  Touch some of the mini-zoo residents while you learn about local animals and how they adapt to the harsh desert environment.  Follow with a hands-on craft!  


Monday, January 16 (Martin Luther King Holiday)

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

$5 per adult, $2 per child age 15 and under (paid at the door)

Museum members are FREE!

Upcoming Temporary Exhibition
"Eye of the Beholder: Beauty and Culture" 

Berber WomanFor thousands of years humans have gone to great lengths to change their natural appearance in an attempt to make themselves feel more attractive, conform to the prevailing customs of their cultural group, participate in religious rituals, attract a mate, show off wealth or social status, and make a statement about themselves.  From body art such as scarification, tattooing and piercing to the increasing popularity of plastic surgery, this exhibition presents a sweeping and sometimes startling look at our methods of adornment and the lengths to which people will go to achieve what they perceive as attractiveness. 


On Display January 7 through March 1, 2012

Christmas Fun Facts

Reindeer Face* Male reindeer shed their antlers around Christmas (females lose theirs in the summer), so the reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh are female.

* Germans made the first artificial Christmas trees out of goose feathers dyed green.

* In A.D. 320, Pope Julius I proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birth of Christ.

* In Poland, spiders and spider webs are common Christmas tree decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus.  Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas.

* Mistletoe is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means "little dung twig" because the plant spreads its seeds through bird droppings.

* The 12 Days of Christmas come after the holiday, not before. The 12 days start on December 25 and go through Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5, which is followed by the Epiphany on January 6.

* Puritan Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas celebrations in England from 1649-1660. The only celebrations allowed were sermons and prayers.

* Some British wear paper crowns while they eat Christmas dinner.  The crowns are stored in a tube called a "Christmas cracker."


**The Hi-Desert Nature Museum and Town of Yucca Valley offices will be closed from Friday, December 23rd through Monday, January 2nd.  We will reopen Tuesday, January 3rd. 
In This Issue
Winter Lecture
Season of Light Exhibit
Science Saturdays
Kids Holiday Crafts
Gunsmoke Night
Critter Club
Upcoming Exhibit
Christmas Fun Facts
Follow us on Twitter
Gecko Gift Shop
Support the Museum
Russian Christmas
Follow Us on Twitter and Visit Us on Facebook!
Christmas Twitter
The museum is now on Twitter! Follow us @HiDesertMuseum to get up to the minute information on programs and exhibits, and receive fun facts related to science, history, art, and culture.
Gecko Gift Shop
Red Gecko
If you are looking for unique gift items for the holidays come to the museum's Gecko Gift Shop. We carry a variety of desert-themed novelties, books, apparel, and souvenirs.

Remember - Museum Members get a 10% Discount!
Support the Museum
Museum Logo
The museum has launched two fundraising campaigns to enable us to continue providing quality educational programs and exhibitions for residents and visitors.  Help preserve our local history, art, culture, and natural science by becoming a museum member, or buy a brick in the entry way of the museum with your personalized engraved inscription.  Information on these programs is available at the museum's reception desk or on our web site. 
Christmas in Russia
Grandfather Frost
As in other Eastern Orthodox countries, Christmas in Russia is celebrated on January 7.  Santa Claus does not play a major role in the Russian Christmas, it is mainly a religious holiday, although Grandfather Frost (shown above), provides gifts in some areas of Russia, often accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden. On Christmas Eve (January 6), there are several long services, including the Royal Hours and Vespers combined with the Divine Liturgy.  The family will then return home for the traditional Christmas Eve "Holy Supper," which consists of 12 dishes, one to honor each of the Twelve Apostles.  Families then return to church for the All Night Vigil.  Then again, on Christmas morning, for the Divine Liturgy of the Nativity.
Visit the
The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is located in the Yucca Valley Community Center Complex at 57116 Twentynine Palms Highway.  The museum is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Admission is free; donations support the educational mission of the museum.  The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is operated by the Town of Yucca Valley. 

For more information on our programs and events contact the Hi-Desert Nature Museum at (760) 369-7212 or see our web site at


To view a full schedule of Yucca Valley events, sports programs, and recreation classes visit the Town's web site at