Decorating the Pink Palace has been a longstanding Memphis Christmas tradition. In 1951, the Museum displayed a forest of live, imaginatively decorated Christmas trees. The exhibit promoted fire safety and was co-sponsored by the Memphis Fire Department. At the opening, Santa Claus arrived in a fire engine. The trees were decorated with ornaments that were hand-made by Memphis school children. The ornaments were donated to local orphanages at the close of the exhibit, and the trees were planted on the grounds of city schools. The museum was a segregated place in the 1950s, and black citizens were only allowed to view the exhibit the Tuesday of the week it was open.
For Christmas 1960, the staff hosted a program titled “Christmas Traditions South of Our Border.” It featured a lecture about Mexican traditions, a piñata and Spanish caroling by students from Immaculate Conception and Blessed Sacrament schools. The next year’s decorations consisted of model trains and featured a program about Christmas traditions around the globe. Central Baptist Church’s Junior Bell Choir played carols, and the planetarium put on a “Star of Bethlehem” show. In 1962, the five thousand members of the Shelby County Council of Garden Clubs held a Christmas show at the museum. The put up themed decorations in the different galleries and called it “Our Gift to Memphis at Christmas.”
The 1968 holiday season featured the return of the school tree decorating contest. As in the 1950s, the staff wanted students to decorate live trees and then plant the trees at the schools. However, this time the Memphis Fire Department protested by saying that it was a fire hazard to have so many lit trees in the mansion. Artificial trees were decorated instead. At the opening ceremonies, Mayor Henry Loeb ceremonially lit the trees, Santa Claus arrived on a peppermint float, and the Dunn School choir sang carols.
Since 2002, the Pink Palace has hosted the Enchanted Forest and Festival of Trees, which benefits Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.