It’s Christmastime, Austin! But if all the pressure of the festive season causes you to have a meltdown a la Frosty in summer and your idea of Santa’s little helper is less Rudolph and more getting’ blitzened, there’s no need to be a cotton-headed ninny muggings with your tinsel in a tangle. After all, ’tis the season to be merry and bright and spread some joy in the world — especially after the past couple of years that naughty Grinch COVID stole from us all.
So, this holiday, we wish you a Merry Christmas and season’s greeting, good tidings, and lots of the comfort and joy. And here’s CultureMap’s gift to you: our 12 favorite local holiday happenings this year that we hope will bring you cheer throughout the season.
A Watchmaker’s Song, December 9-12 and 16-18, 6:30 and 8:30 pm, Neill-Cochran House Museum
Turn the traditional Nutcracker on its head this year and opt for a reimagined rendition of the classic holiday ballet with Ventana Ballet’s fourth-annual performance of The Watchmaker’s Song, “an immersive and quirky twist” on the original favorite, presented by Red Nightfall Productions. Hosted at the seasonally festooned Neill-Cochran House Museum, the show invites viewers to partake of a seasonal cocktail and perhaps even join in on a courtyard-adjacent holiday swing-dancing party. Characters roam the property and magical installations fill the museum alongside live music and cultural dance pop-ups. There’s no way to not feel jolly here!
Holiday Market, December 10-11, 4-9 pm, Community First! Village
This is an excellent opportunity to cross some items off your holiday shopping list while embracing the real reason for the season: giving and sharing with others. Hosted at Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community First! Village — a master-planned community designed to provide affordable, permanent housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness in Central Texas — the Holiday Market features unique items for sale created by Village artists and makers. And purchases help provide income for Village neighbors enrolled in the Community Works program. Local food vendors will be on hand, holiday movies will screen at the Community Cinema, and rumor has it Santa will make an appearance. While you’re there, learn more about volunteer opportunities with Mobile Loaves & Fishes.
Family-fun Holiday Event, December 11-12, 10 am-5 pm, Indian Springs Ranch
Unwrap your wild side this season with a visit to Indian Springs Ranch in South Austin, where you can mingle with camels, zebras, alpacas, kangaroos, and emus while shopping holiday vendors, posing for holiday-themed photo ops, sending Santa letters through the mailbox to the North Pole, and toasting s’mores by the bonfire. A portion of the $10 admission fee will be donated to CASA of Travis County, so you can feel even more cheery about a visit to the cuddliest Christmas event around.
Ginger Cocktail Masterclass, December 16, 6:30 pm, Bar Ellis
Get spicy in the best way this holiday at Bar Ellis’ Ginger Cocktail Masterclass, presented by Domaine de Canton and part of Fareground’s first-ever Ginger Festival. Guests will be able to work from their own cocktail station at Bar Ellis, with all the spirits, bar tools, and cool accoutrements to make three ginger-based cocktails — and then take part in a festive cocktail contest. The experience includes a welcome drink, bites, four full-sized cocktails, recipe cards and takeaways, and a special prize for the cocktail contest winner.
National Ugly Sweater Day, December 17, 4-6 pm, Hill Country Galleria
Deck yourself in your most unattractive Christmas sweater and sled on down to Central Plaza Pavilion at the Hill Country Galleria to celebrate National Ugly Sweater Day. Join in on the ugly sweater contest to win some jolly prizes, pop into the onsite photo booth to commemorate the occasion, and finish off the evening holiday-style by partaking in restaurant happy hours and a Galleria bar crawl until 8 pm.
A Merry-Achi Christmas, December 17, 8 pm, ACL Live at the Moody Theater
Delight in a one-of-a-kind holiday performance from the unrivaled and spectacular Mariachi Sol de México de Jóse Hernàndez at the Moody Theater. The mariachi legend — whose family has been rooted in the musical genre for five generations — leads a charismatic band through festive Christmas classics, mariachi-style. It’s a lively show that would bring a holiday smile to even the grumpiest bah humbugger. We dare you not to shake your holiday maker!
White Christmas, December 19, 3:30 pm, Paramount Theatre
Ring in the holiday in traditional style with a showing of the seasonal classic White Christmas, showcased in all its perfectly campy glory on the Paramount Theatre’s big screen — the best way to view the Bing Crosby-led sing-along favorite. For Christmas, it doesn’t get any better than this charming musical, even in a place where we rarely get snow, snow, snow, snow!
Stealing Baby Jesus, through December 21, Austin Playhouse
If dysfunctional seasonal experiences are the Christmas norm in your life, you will definitely relate to this hilarious one-woman holiday storytelling experience written and performed by Bernadette Nason. She regales audiences with adults-only tales of her many maladjusted family holidays in England, Africa, Arabia, and the U.S., likely making you all the more grateful for your own possibly odd kin and Christmas gatherings. The show will also stream on demand December 20-26.
A Very Merry Christmas Show, through December 23, Parker Jazz Club
Jazz up your season with this dynamic holiday celebration at Parker Jazz Club. The Parker House Band, featuring vocalist Jennifer Johnson, performs sparkling jazz arrangements of all-time favorites. And the Ryan Davis Trio opens each show with Vince Guaraldi’s classic ditties from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The club promises “lavish lighting and the best sound in the city” to help set the tone for a stylish salute to the most wonderful time of the year.
Christmas Wine Affair 2021, through December 24, Hill Country wineries
Raise a glass (or a few) of the good stuff while savoring Texas Wine Country this season. Christmas Wine Affair features the sipping and sampling of award-winning vinos, with more than 35 Hill Country wineries participating. Here, the philosophy is: the more wine, the merrier. Tickets score vino elves a full complimentary tasting at as many as four area wineries, as well as a discount on bottle purchases from each participating winery. As always, plan ahead for a sober ride home. Keep the roads safe for Santa and his reindeer!
Gingerbread Village, through December 28, Four Seasons Hotel Austin
Truly one of the most spectacular holiday sights to behold in Austin, the Four Seasons’ annual Gingerbread Village returns this year, inspired by the magic of the North Pole. The Four Seasons elves have meticulously crafted a lobby display featuring 11 edible gingerbread houses, including Santa’s Workshop and an elf dormitory, as well as a bustling town square with a large-scale Christmas tree and a live countdown to Christmas. The magic of this display must be seen to be believed. And through January 2, visitors can also cozy up around the hotel’s fire pits for gourmet s’mores. All the fixin’s are provided, including mint or cinnamon marshmallows, house-made graham crackers, and Texas-shaped Valrhona chocolate.
Walkway of Lights, through January 1, 2022, 6-10 pm, Marble Falls
Sure, Austin’s got its fair share of light trails and shows, but if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle (and fees), just jump in your sleigh and pop over to the town of Marble Falls for a festive walk-through light display featuring 2 million lights making things very merry and bright at Lakeside Park, along with more than 350 lighted sculptures. Hosted by the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Walkway of Lights is free and open to the public, but since it’s entirely funded by donations, there’s no need to be a Scrooge. Visitors can also unwrap more holiday-themed excitement in Marble Falls — including ice skating at the park — this season.