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Walking in a Boston Wonderland

Your guide to all the holiday cheer the city has to offer

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The weather outside may be frightful, but the thought of relaxing during winter break is beyond delightful.

Today marks the last day of final exams. Residence halls close tomorrow, Saturday, December 20, at noon and will not reopen until 10 a.m. on Friday, January 16. Dining facilities close after dinner this evening and will reopen for dinner on Saturday, January 17, 2015.

Most students will be scurrying home for the intersession break, but those lucky enough to be staying in the city will find that there’s really no better place to spend the holidays. Whether you’re searching for last-minute gifts, in the mood for a night at the movies, or looking for a festive holiday show, the city has something to offer. Below is a guide we’ve put together to help ensure you have a fun and festive holiday season.

Shopping

Downtown Boston Holiday Market

Finding the perfect gift for someone is always tricky, but we challenge you to leave the Downtown Boston Holiday Market empty-handed. Now in its seventh year, this bazaar features crafts, jewelry, home décor, clothing and accessories, and food, all handmade by local artisans. As an added bonus, customers can take a free photo with Santa Claus every weekday from noon to 2 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 4 p.m., now through December 23.

The Downtown Boston Holiday Market is located at Downtown Crossing, 459 Washington St., now through January 10, 2015. The market is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a full list of vendors, click here.  To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street. The Downtown Holiday Market is about a two-minute walk from the station.

Boston, Downtown Boston Holiday Market, Boston Holiday, Holiday Market

The Downtown Boston Holiday Market features handmade goods from local artisans, like these ornaments from B&B Glass Studio. Photo courtesy of Downtown Boston Holiday Market

Harvard Square Holiday Craft Fair

Across the Charles is the Harvard Square Holiday Craft Fair—the fair’s website calls it “a party where you can buy stuff,” and that’s the perfect description. With dozens of vendors selling handmade crafts, an endless selection of clothing, accessories, jewelry, artisanal food, and home décor, and an upbeat soundtrack playing in the background, this holiday fair is worth the trek to Cambridge.

The Harvard Square Holiday Craft Fair is located in the First Parish Unitarian Church, Zero Church St., Harvard Square. The fair is open through Tuesday, December 23. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For a full list of vendors, click here. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, then change to a Red Line outbound train to Harvard Square. The fair is about a two-minute walk from the station.

Santa in the City! and Charity Gift Wrap at The Shops at Prudential Center

Indulge your inner child and visit the man himself—Santa Claus—in the Belvidere Arcade at The Shops at Prudential Center. Then, head over to Barnes & Noble in the Prudential’s Huntington Arcade, where local nonprofit organizations like the American Red Cross, Hadassah, and the Boston Arts Academy will wrap any gift you bring them for free. Donations will support participating organizations.

Santa in the City! takes place now through December 24 in the Belvidere Arcade at The Shops at Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Boston. Santa will be available for photos today from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; December 21 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 22 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 23 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and December 24 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Photo packages start at $19.99. For more information, click here.

The Charity Gift Wrap is sponsored by Barnes & Noble and located in front of their store in the Huntington Arcade at The Shops at Prudential Center, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., now through December 24. Gift wrapping is free of charge. Any gift can be wrapped; it does not need to be purchased from Barnes & Noble or any other store in the mall. Donations are welcome; for a full list of the participating organizations, click here. To get to the Prudential Center, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley Station.

Worship

Christmas Eve Service at Marsh Chapel

Marsh Chapel is hosting two Christmas Eve Services this year—one at noon and another at 7:30 p.m. Both give the opportunity for meditation and celebration. Music at the evening service will be provided by the Marsh Chapel Thurman Choir.

The services, which are free and open to the public, take place on December 24 at noon and 7:30 p.m. in Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave.

Theater and Performing Arts

Boston Pops, Boston, Boston Holiday Pops, Boston Christmas, Boston Christmas Music, Boston Christmas Events, Boston Holiday Events

Conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Holiday Pops delight audiences at Symphony Hall with renditions of timeless holiday classics. Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

2014 Holiday Pops

If you love watching the Boston Pops perform on the Esplanade each July 4, then a trip to Symphony Hall to see their holiday show is a must. The fun-filled concerts feature beloved holiday music, an audience sing-along, and a visit from Saint Nick himself. In addition to full-length performances, the Holiday Pops also offers special Kids’ Matinees, which are shorter and more family-friendly. To make the event even more festive, food and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) can be ordered during the performance.

The 2014 Holiday Pops are playing now through December 24 at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Tickets start at $37 and are available here. Children under 4 are not permitted at the Holiday Pops concert, but children of all ages are welcome to attend the Kids’ Matinee performances. To order tickets for those performances, click here. To get to Symphony Hall, take an MBTA Green Line B, C, or D trolley to Hynes Convention Center or an E trolley to the Symphony stop.

Black Nativity

Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity has enthralled Boston audiences of all ages for 44 years with its joyous celebration of the Christmas story. Child and adult choirs, actors, dancers, musicians, and the thunderous beat of African drums will fill you with the holiday’s powerful message of joy and hope. Black Nativity is produced by the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) in Boston, which calls the production the “Black community’s Christmas gift to the world.”

Black Nativity is playing at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston. The remaining performances are tonight, Friday, December 19, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, December 20, at 3:30 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, December 21, at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Paramount Box Office at 617-824-8400 and online. To get to the Paramount, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Boylston Street. From there, the theater is about a 5-minute walk.

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker

It’s not really Christmastime until you’ve seen The Nutcracker on stage. This critically-acclaimed production, choreographed by Mikko Nissinen, first debuted in 2012 and features the breathtaking talent of the Boston Ballet’s company of dancers. You’re guaranteed to be enchanted.

The Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is being performed now through December 31 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. Tickets can be purchased here and are still available in limited quantities, so be sure to plan ahead. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Boylston Street. The Opera House is about a 5-minute walk away.

Boston Ballet, Boston Nutcracker, The Nutcracker

Boston Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker has become a much-anticipated annual tradition. Photo courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice

This annual Boston theatrical gala celebrating the winter solstice has been dazzling local audiences for more than four decades. This year’s production of The Christmas Revels travels back to Victorian England and is set in the “Crystal Palace,” the glass building that was constructed in London to hold the Great Exhibition of 1851. The production features carols, dances, costumes, music, and other cultural traditions that characterized the Victorian era. The show lasts for nearly three hours and encourages audience participation.

The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice is performed at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St., Cambridge, now through December 28. Tickets start at $25 for adults and $13 for children. Only a limited number of tickets are left, so be sure to plan ahead. For a full list of performances, click here. Tickets can be purchased from the Harvard Box Office. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street and then take the Red Line outbound to Harvard Square. It is about a 5-minute walk to Sanders Theatre.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical

The classic film White Christmas (1954) starred Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a song-and-dance team who fall in love with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera- Ellen) set against the magical backdrop of Vermont at Christmastime. Featuring Irving Berlin standards like “Blue Skies” and “White Christmas,” the film has become a holiday staple. Now, White Christmas has been turned into a stage musical, complete with Berlin’s original songs. Celebrate the holiday season with this timeless tale of love and holiday cheer, performed live at Boston’s Wang Theatre. Ticket availability is limited, so buy your tickets fast!

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical is performed nightly at the Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston, now through December 28. Tickets start at $35 and are available here. Matinee performances are being offered on Saturday, December 20; Sunday, December 21; Wednesday, December 24; Friday, December 26; Saturday, December 27; and Sunday, December 28. (Note: no performances on Christmas Day). To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to the Boylston Street stop. The theater is one block away from the station.

The Slutcracker

Head to Somerville for this bawdy and entertaining burlesque parody of the original Nutcracker ballet, which combines dance and classical music with sexual fantasy. (In this version, the children are now grown up, and there’s a devious Aunt Drosselmeyer). The show is open to adults ages 18 and over and features ballet dancers, hula hoopers, belly dancers, and burlesque performers.

The Slutcracker is at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, now through December 31. Tickets are $27 and are selling fast, so be sure to plan ahead. Purchase tickets here. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, then take the Red Line outbound to Davis Square. The theatre is next door to the station.

Light Show

Blink! A Light and Sound Extravaganza

This state-of-the-art light show is in its third year and well on its way to becoming a local holiday tradition. Over 350,000 LED lights illuminate Faneuil Hall Marketplace to the rhythm of recorded holiday music from the Boston Holiday Pops. The show is free and open to the public.

Blink!, at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, One Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, will take place through January 4. The seven-minute light show runs once every half hour starting with a show at 4:30 p.m. in the East End of the Marketplace, and another at 5 p.m. in the North Market. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street. Faneuil Hall is about a 10-minute walk from the station.

Comedy

Improv Asylum’s Holiday Show

If the sincerity of the holiday season starts to grate on your nerves, we’ve got just the antidote. Head down to the Improv Asylum in the North End and catch their annual holiday revue, a bitingly hilarious holiday-themed show that combines improvisational and sketch comedy. Improv Asylum’s website promises that you’ll “laugh so hard that your belly will shake like a bowl of jelly.”

Holiday Show is running at the Improv Asylum, 216 Hanover St., Boston, now through December 30. Tickets start at $20 and are selling fast, so be sure to plan ahead. For a full list of show times, click here. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket. From there, the Improv Asylum is about a five-minute walk.

The ImprovBoston Holiday Spectacular

Music and comedy come together in this holiday spectacular starring some of Boston’s most talented writers and performers. The part-scripted, part-improvised show is sure to leave you laughing out loud. And there’s a bar for the over-21 set.

The ImprovBoston Holiday Spectacular is at ImprovBoston, 40 Prospect St., Cambridge, now through December 27. Tickets are $18 and are selling fast, so be sure to plan ahead. For a full list of show times, click here. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, then take the Red Line outbound to Central Square. ImprovBoston is about a two-minute walk from the station.

Blink, Faneuil Hall, Boston, Boston Holidays, Things to Do in Boston for the Holidays

Blink! is a light and sound show that illuminates Faneuil Hall each December. Photo courtesy of Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Movies

Elf at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

The Coolidge is having two special midnight showings—one tonight and one tomorrow night—of this modern Christmas classic starring Will Ferrell as a man raised by Santa’s elves who travels to New York in search of his human family. Yes, you can watch it on TV, but it’s funnier (and more fun) to share it on the big screen with a roomful of like-minded fans.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline, is showing Elf tonight, Friday, December 19, and tomorrow night, Saturday, December 20, at 11:59 p.m. Tickets are $10.25 and can be purchased online or at the door. To get there, take an MBTA C line trolley to the Coolidge Corner stop.

It’s a Wonderful Life at the Brattle Theatre

Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre is showing Frank Capra’s 1946 classic about a man whose outlook on life is changed by an angel-in-training, now through December 21. The film stars a who’s who of Hollywood, including Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and, as the endearing angel who finally gets his wings, the wonderful character actor, Henry Travers.

The Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, is showing It’s a Wonderful Life now through Sunday, December 21. For a full list of show times, check here. Tickets are $7 for children and seniors, $8 for students and members of the Brattle Theatre Foundation, and $10 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, then take the Red Line outbound to Harvard Square.

AMC Loews Boston Common 19

Winter break is a perfect time to catch up on movies. Enjoy some of the biggest and newest holiday hits like Annie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

AMC Loews Boston Common 19 is at 175 Tremont St., Boston. Show times and ticket prices vary. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Boylston.

Parties

Frozen Chanukah—Let It Glow!

There’s no better way to spend a winter afternoon than ice-skating. On December 21 (the fifth day of Chanukah), head to the Reilly Memorial Rink in Cleveland Circle for this Frozen-themed, family-friendly Chanukah party, which features face-painting, arts and crafts, latkes, and a performance by the Skating Club of Boston.

Frozen Chanukah—Let It Glow! takes place on Sunday, December 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Reilly Memorial Rink, 355 Chestnut Hill Ave., Cleveland Circle. Admission is $5 and guests are encouraged to RSVP online here. Skate rentals cost $5.

Lights and Strikes Chanukah Party

Join over 600 young adults on Sunday, December 21, at Jillian’s Lucky Strike Boston for latkes, doughnuts, cocktails, music, and bowling.

Lights and Strikes Chanukah Party takes place on Sunday, December 21, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. at Jillian’s Lucky Strike Boston, 145 Ipswich St. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door. Bowling is included for the first 150 people in line. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Kenmore.

Looking for ideas on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Boston? Check back on BU Today December 26 for a list of events you won’t want to miss.

Samantha Pickette can be reached at pickette@bu.edu.

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