Amid the flurry of post-Thanksgiving binges, shopping sprees and in-law entertaining, it’s easy to forget that December can actually be a really fun month. Regardless of whether you associate with the various religious angles surrounding this time of year, it’s still cause to celebrate the close of the year with great food, the arts, tradition — and some more great food.
Here are the top ten picks for what to do in Central Texas this month.
In Texas, we don’t see much ice, and any semblance of such is usually vanquished by an ominous, impending heat. For this reason, the Whole Foods ice skating rink exists like a snow cone in the desert — totally unnatural but utterly lifesaving in its aberration. Tickets are $10 per person, including skates, and can only be purchased at the Whole Foods downtown location. Sessions begin on the hour every hour and run for approximately 50 minutes.
This two-act ballet is as synonymous with the idea of the holiday season as, say, Yule logs or sugarplums. Even if you can’t stand the frou-frou (read: artistry) of ballet, The Nutcracker transcends cliché with timelessly dazzling choreography and an unmistakable score. Ballet Austin presents the golden anniversary production of The Nutcracker, running December 8-23, at the Long Center.
From the very traditional Miracle On 34th Street to the much more irreverent A Christmas Story, holiday-themed movies are all but required in the month of December. Luckily, the folks at the Alamo have their fingers to the pulse of holiday nostalgia and programmed a roster of films — from the Elf Quote-Along to big screen classics such as Gremlins — accordingly.
For what Austin is lacking in holiday weather it certainly makes up for with holiday lights. The city’s most spectacular display returns to Zilker Park with the Trail of Lights from December 16-23. Other decorating extravaganzas include the quirky displays on 37th Street, as well as the Circle C and Mount Bonnell neighborhoods. Additional noteworthy spots can be found in Clarksville, the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery and Allandale. If you’re up for a little road trip, journey down to San Marcos through December 30 for the legendary drive-through light show that is Santa’s Ranch.
Most hounds of the holiday season (my mother) break out their decorations the day after Thanksgiving while others (myself) follow suit at a more leisurely pace. Regardless of which track you choose to pursue, stick to the secular holiday club-bangers — er, classics — such as a lighted tree, garlands, cut paper snowflakes and gingerbread people on a string.
Although eggnog is traditionally made with cream, sugar, whipped eggs and bourbon, this recipe is often amended on a family-to-family basis. Deviations can be drastic — store-bought eggnog mixed with 7UP and a few scoops of ice cream — but the taste is unmistakable. Nostalgic vegans can even try their hand at a dairy-free version of the drink, which includes soft tofu and turmeric.
Why wait until spring to clean out the closet, especially considering that charity needs usually increase around the holidays? Even if you can’t find anything tangible to donate, remember that your time is always the item in highest demand. Visit I Live Here, I Give Here, in conjunction with CultureMap’s Culture of Giving Editorial Special Series, to find ways to discover new ways to give.
Carolers and caroling have always polarized people. I’m specifically reminded of a scene from the 1988 film Funny Farm in which Chevy Chase slams a door on a group of cheery carolers. Either you’re Chevy Chase, or you’re the carolers. At any rate, Austin offers a handful of caroling activities this season, ranging from the two-week long Deck the District celebration to the smaller Rosedale Neighborhood Caroling Party.
A lot of people stick to traditional holiday-themed sugar cookies, while others venture into more daring gingerbread, pignoli or baklava territories. There is no right holiday cookie, only the one that you (and your coworkers) deem tastiest.
Although there is so much more to the holiday season than simply shop, holiday bazaars are more of a nostalgic ritual than the routine trip to the mall. The 37th Annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar returns to the Palmer Events Center from December 12-24 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Similarly, the Cherrywood Art Fair runs December 8 and 9 at Maplewood Elementary from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.