Happy holidays? Not always. Not when you're forced to spend a few days cooped up inside with family members you may not get along with all that well, getting presents you don't need and giving away presents you spent too much money on.
Maybe, you start thinking to yourself, Ebenezer Scrooge had the right idea.
"People who seldom or never see one another during the year are thrown together in close proximity at family reunions during the winter holidays," says Johns Hopkins University Professor P.M. Forni, author of "The Civility Solution: What to Do When People are Rude," who teaches the history and theory of good manners. "That can be a problem."
Not, one should hasten to add, that holiday get-togethers are a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Many go off without a hitch, leaving people with that warm holiday glow songwriters dwell on so obsessively. But for others, the holidays are a thing more endured than enjoyed. Coping can be a real problem.
"If you don't get along at other times, it's not going to get all magically better at the holidays," says Kathy Helzlsouer, an oncologist and director of the prevention and research center at Mercy Medical Center. "Tensions that exist at other times of the year, they don't magically go away."
The problems may not go away, but maybe you can — at least for a while. When family tensions and frictions become too much to bear, retreat should not be out of the question. Most things are closed on Christmas itself, but a few are open (including that 24-hour American mainstay, the 7-11). And while the days surrounding Christmas aren't exactly chock-a-block with activities, there are options for those who need a holiday respite from their family, friends and other loved ones.
Here are a dozen possibilities in the Baltimore area.
'Annie' How about spending the day after Christmas with the world's spunkiest orphan? Olney's production of the Tony-winning musical (which has now outlived the newspaper strip that inspired it) runs through Jan. 16, including a 2 p.m. performance Sunday on the main stage at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road in Montgomery County. Tickets are $49-$54. 301-924-3400 or olneytheatre.org.
Ballet The Washington Ballet concludes its presentation of an Americanized "Nutcracker" (with George Washington as the title character and England's George III as the Rat King) with a 1 p.m. performance today and 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. performances Sunday at D.C.'s Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets Northwest. Tickets are $31-$89. 202-362-3606 or washingtonballet.org.
'A Christmas Carol' Olney Theatre favorite Paul Morella presents a solo version of Charles Dickens' novella about a miser, a crippled child and three yuletide ghosts. Showtime is 2 p.m. Sunday in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road in Montgomery County. Tickets are $26. 301-924-3400 or olneytheatre.org.
'Cinderella' Toby's Dinner Theatre's production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, about a poor girl whose evil sisters almost keep her from meeting her Prince Charming, runs through Jan. 23. Included are a 6 p.m. performance today and two shows on Sunday, at 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $47-$50.50. 410-995-1969 or tobysdinnertheatre.com.
Dance party Get you feet moving at "Moustache — The Super-Fun Dance Party," set for 9 p.m. today at the Ottobar, 2549 Howard St. Featured performers include James Nasty, Uncle Jesse & The Moustache Crew. Tickets are $5 for ages 18-20, with no cover if you're over 21. 410-662-0069 or theottobar.com.
George Washington's Mount Vernon Here's the rare historic site that is open Christmas Day, and visitors who make the trek to Northern Virginia are in for a treat, including tours of the mansion's usually closed third floor, chocolate toasts (using a favorite Washington family recipe) and visiting animal dignitaries, including a camel named Aladdin and the Thanksgiving turkey pardoned by President Barack Obama. Mount Vernon is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway. 703-780-2000 or mountvernon.org.
'Get the Led Out' For a band that hasn't put out a new album in three decades, Led Zeppelin continues to attract a legion of loyal fans. If you long to hear "Stairway to Heaven" performed live, check out this tribute band, whose show is set for 9 p.m. Sunday at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. Tickets are $25. 410-244-1131 or ramsheadlive.com.
'Jewtopia Live!' What happens when a Jew and a Gentile want to marry? That's easy: hilarity! The longest-running off-Broadway comedy in history, this expanded version of Bryan Fogel's stage play will be staged twice on Sunday at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at the Hippodrome, 12 N. Eutaw St. Showtimes are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and tickets are $32.50-$52.50. 410-837-7400 or francemerrickpac.com.