‘12 Days of Christmas’ Hit Arboretum

The “seven swans a-swimming” feature includes six white swans and one black swan floating in ice. (Photo: Kathy Lawrence)
The “seven swans a-swimming” feature includes six white swans and one black swan floating in ice. (Photo: Kathy Lawrence)

Tom and Phyllis McCasland’s dream to provide Dallas with a spectacular Christmas display at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is now a reality.

The Preston Hollow residents have been supporters of the Arboretum since moving to Dallas 15 years ago. Among the projects they have sponsored is the sunken garden, named for them. That location, with the Chico y Chica de la Playa sculpture and fountain, is a favorite locale for weddings and other celebrations.

Phyllis began thinking about a Christmas season display the Arboretum could showcase two years ago and said, “the Arb lends itself to big scale things,” such as the Chihuly installation three years ago, so she knew the venue could handle something large and magnificent.

Wanting to offer something symbolic of Christmas, but different than what is normally seen, she developed the idea that became the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit. It opened on Nov. 16 and runs through Jan. 4.

Created by the Dallas Opera design team, each of the 12 days is represented in individual glass-sided 25-foot-tall gazebos, with accompanying music.

arboretum2Phyllis wanted to share the English flavor of Christmas in the Victorian era, so the life-sized mannequins are attired in dress from that period. A number of the displays include mechanical animation, including the nine ladies dancing and the 10 lords-a-leaping. She hopes children will learn something about history and, among other things, they will see a depiction of cows being milked by hand.

Additional donors sponsored each of the 12 days, with the McCaslands sponsoring Day 7, the seven swans-a-swimming. The display features seven swans, six white and one black, floating in an ice crystal palace.

“We have had swans at Glen Lakes and they are delightful and pretty to watch,” Phyllis said. “It is silvery and glittery — the perfect winter scene, and something we don’t really see very often here.”

Aside from the Arboretum project, Tom McCasland was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Nov. 13, along with country singer Blake Shelton, actress Alfre Woodard, and four others. After spending more than four decades in the oil and gas business, Tom now serves as chairman and trustee of the family’s McCasland Foundation. The McCaslands are both from Duncan, Okla., and remain involved in philanthropic activities in that state as well.

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