If a holiday visit to New York is out of the question this year,… (Photo courtesy of Paul Polnik )
With the economy in the doldrums and partridges in pear trees seemingly in short supply, it's time to rethink this whole "12 Days of Christmas" thing. Maybe, instead of offering 12 things to buy, it would be better to find 12 things to do as the holidays approach - 12 days' worth of seasonal activities guaranteed to wring glad tidings out of even the most curmudgeonly Scrooge.
Traditionalists should have an easy time filling their holiday to-do lists, thanks to such mainstays as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Spectacular, train gardens at the B&O Railroad Museum and the annual Mayor's Christmas Parade in Hampden. Those whose festive spirit requires something a little more cutting-edge can go listen to Mink Stole at the Creative Alliance or spend an evening with the guys from "Mystery Science Theater 3000," laughing at some dependably bizarre holiday shorts.
There will even be a handful of visitors from faraway lands passing through Charm City in the days leading up to Christmas, lending their voices (or, in the case of New York City's Rockettes, their legs) to the holiday festivities.
Of course, Charm City revelers could simply spend 12 days soaking in the electric splendors of Hampden, whose proud residents festoon their homes with so many electric lights that BGE practically has to install a separate electric substation just for the holidays.
But happily, Baltimore's yuletide glory extends well beyond 34th Street. Here's just one possible itinerary for an assuredly memorable 12-day celebration:
(Historical note: Yes, we realize that the 12 days of Christmas traditionally refer to the days leading from Christmas to the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, celebrating the magi and their visit with the baby Jesus. But when it comes to starting new traditions, all the old ones can be in play.)
Day 1Thursday, Dec. 3
The lighting of the Washington Monument, Charles and Monument streets, and the Monument Lighting Festival at the Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles St.
Oriole Nick Markakis gets to throw the switch this year, as the nation's first major monument to George Washington once again is turned into Baltimore's biggest Christmas tree, this year decorated with money- and energy-saving LED lights. The festivities at the monument, including fireworks, musical performances and the BSO's Dancing Santas, run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, down the street at the Walters, a free, family-friendly Monument Lighting Festival from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. will include music, art activities for the kids and light refreshments. Walters information: 410-547-9000, ext. 300, or thewalters.org/eventscalendar/calendar.aspx.
Day 2Friday, Dec. 4
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs Handel's "Messiah," Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.
Edward Polochick conducts the BSO and the Concert Artists of Baltimore Symphonic Chorale in Handel's magnificent oratorio, written in 1741 as a musical retelling of the life of Jesus.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25-$65. Information: 410-783-8000 or bsomusic.org.
Day 3Sunday, Dec. 6
The 37th annual Mayor's Christmas Parade, Hampden
A tradition that dates to former Mayor William Donald Schaefer's second year in office, the parade begins at 2 p.m. at Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane and proceeds through Hampden along 36th Street. This year's version will be led by a giant steam calliope and 150 Harley Davidson motorcycles, to be followed by marchers including horses, Philadelphia's famed Mummers, Miss Yuletide (Maggie Terhune) and Junior Miss Yuletide (Jahna Hawes). There's also supposed to be an appearance by some jolly old elf from up north.
"We have a priest this year who is going to give us a weather prayer," says veteran parade chairman John Kerr, hoping to continue a 37-year tradition of never having to cancel because of bad weather. And the sort of tough economic times that contributed to last month's cancellation of the city's Thanksgiving parade won't get in the way either, he promises. "We've had a lot of local merchants who have stuck by us," he says, "and they still do."
Day 4Tuesday, Dec. 8
"The Santaland Diaries," Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St.
Humorist David Sedaris learned a lot about human nature during his season as a costumed elf at Macy's. Little of it is flattering to the human race, and much of it isn't exactly in the holiday spirit, but all of it - as first recounted on National Public Radio back in the early 1990s - is very funny. From Dec. 8 through Dec. 20, Center Stage will present Robert Dorfman in "The Santaland Diaries," a one-man show based on Sedaris' work. Tickets are $25 weekdays, $35 weekends. Information: 410-332-0033 or centerstage.org.
Day 5Thursday, Dec. 10
"It's a Wonderful Life" radio play, Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Anne St.