14-12-holiday-family-daysThis Saturday, December 6, marks the first weekend of the Blanton’s Holiday Family Days. This year, instead of one weekend immediately following Christmas, there will be two chances (December 6th and 13th) to enjoy some special family programming!

Riddles are popular pastimes for families around the world during holidays and special celebrations. During the Moon Festival in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam festival-goers bring lanterns with riddles written on them and have children try to guess the answers. If the children guess correctly, they receive a prize. In Sweden, families attach riddles to wrapped Christmas gifts alluding to the present inside.

Exchanging riddles for prizes is a tradition that spans across the globe and takes many different forms, including that of a game. In Norse legends, the god Odin would have ‘wisdom contests’ with King Heidrekin and take turns telling riddles back and forth. One of the most well-known ‘wisdom contests’ from popular culture today comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, in which Bilbo and Gollum exchange riddles for high stakes. A similar tradition exists in Kenya today where young people sing an elaborate, competitive duet called a gicandia.

Carlos Mérida, Abstract (detail), 1953, glass mosaic on composite matrix, 33 1/8 × 72 × 1 1/8 in., Gift of Judy S. and Charles W. Tate, 2014. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City

Carlos Mérida, Abstract (detail), 1953, glass mosaic on composite matrix, 33 1/8 × 72 × 1 1/8 in., Gift of Judy S. and Charles W. Tate, 2014. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City

This year for Blanton Holiday Family Days, we challenge our families to come together and solve a series of riddles we’ve designed about works in our galleries. In the atrium there will be a table where families can pick up their riddle cards and begin their journey in any gallery they choose. The three riddles can be solved in any order and are designed to lead our families and guests throughout the museum. Once the riddle has been solved, and the specific work as been found, a volunteer will be nearby to give the group their sticker. On the riddle card there is a reproduction of Carlos Merida’s mosaic Abstract with some of its pieces missing. Each sticker that is earned will correspond to one of those missing pieces. The challenge is to solve all three riddles and reconstruct the mosaic.

Across the plaza in the Edgar A. Smith building there will be an art-making activity in the WorkLAB Studio. At the studio our families have the opportunity to make mosaic decorations for their homes, or to use as gifts, together.

In addition, the Blanton has partnered with the Butler School of Music’s Chamber Music Group to have pop-up performances of holiday music throughout the day. We will also be hosting a special holiday-themed Story Time tour at noon on each Saturday.

Can you figure out the riddle below? The solution is something you will need to use at Holiday Family Days this year!

I have billions of eyes, yet I live in darkness. I have millions of ears, yet only four lobes. I have no muscle, yet I rule two hemispheres. What am I?

Elizabeth Srsic is a first year MA student in the Art History Department at the University of Texas, specializing in Medieval art. She is the Graduate Fellow for Family and Community Programs at the Blanton.

Answer: the brain

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