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The story behind the Planetarium's big red holiday bow

It's been a tradition in St. Louis for many years but what many people don’t know is that it first began as a prank

ST. LOUIS — For many St. Louisans, the red bow going up around the James S. McDonnell Planetarium is a sign that the holiday season is beginning.

The big bow has been a tradition at the Saint Louis Science Center for many years but what many people don’t know is that it first began as a prank.

On Dec. 17, 1966, 15 to 20 students from Washington University in St. Louis climbed onto the Planetarium and placed a ribbon and bow around the building.

The students also left a sign with the words “Merry Christmas St. Louis. Washington University School of Architecture,” according to the Saint Louis Science Center.

The community had such a positive reaction to the bow that it became a holiday tradition ever since.

Putting up the bow

The bow and ribbon has gone up around the Planetarium every year since the prank in 1966, except for one year due to renovations.

The ribbon strand is 4-to-5-feet tall with a bow that's about 20-feet wide. It takes about four to five hours to put up, the Science Center said on its website. It goes up just before Thanksgiving and is removed the first week of January.

This year, the bow was installed on Sunday, Nov. 21. Bill Greenblatt with UPI captured photos of the red "ribbon" going up. You can view them in the gallery below.

More holiday traditions

Several other holiday traditions are beginning to pop up around the St. Louis area.

Holiday light displays at Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Grant’s Farm and the Saint Louis Zoo kick off this week. Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park opened last week.

The Polar Express at St. Louis Union Station and Winterfest at Kiener Plaza also kicked off last week.

For a full list of events around the area, browse 5 On Your Side's holiday guide here.