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Can you smell the snow in the air? Probably not—we live in Houston, after all—but that doesn’t change the facts. We’ve awoken from our turkey-induced comas to find our streets merry and brighter which can only mean one thing: the most wonderful time of the year is officially here.
And while there won’t be a white Christmas here in Houston (thanks global warming … and, um, geography) or much-mistletoeing (you too, Covid), there’s still plenty of fun to be had this holiday season. So, whether you’re all about the colorful light displays or just want to see as many versions of A Christmas Carol as you possibly can, we’re sure this something on this list of Houston holiday happenings you’ll fa-la-la-la-love.
Have an event you’d like added to this list? Email [email protected]
On the Stage
An Evening with Chevy Case and Beverly D’Angelo
“Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?” Oh yes, the Griswolds themselves are making the virtual trek to Houston in celebration of the Christmas comedy classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. During the special event, Chevy Case (Clark Griswold) and Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen Griswold) will screen fan-favorite clips from the John Hughes movie, share their favorite memories from filming the Vacation franchise, and answer questions from the audience. It’s gonna be the “hap-hap happiest” of Christmas events.
Nov 28. From $25. Online. More info and registration at spahouston.org.
Holiday at the Hope's: A Christmas Mixtape
Stages fan-favorites Ben Hope and Katie Barton Hope are bringing us a radio celebration filled with holiday songs and personal stories about their family traditions in this new audio play.
Dec 1–13. $25. Online. More info and tickets at stagestheatre.com.
A Christmas Carol
The Alley Theatre’s taking its beloved holiday tradition online with a free virtual production of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. But this year’s production is a bit different from Christmases past—the company’s bringing Doris Baizley’s adaptation to its virtual stage. This pared-down retelling relays the classic tale of Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and Tiny Tim through the eyes of a rag-tag, but well-meaning acting troupe using a story-within-a-story structure.
Dec 4–27. Free. Online. More info and registration at alleytheatre.org.
Manual Cinema’s A Christmas Carol
Chicago interdisciplinary performance collective Manual Cinema will be broadcasting their visually inventive take of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, featuring hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, and silhouettes, as well as a live original score. In this retelling, holiday skeptic Judy reconstructs her late husband’s annual Christmas Carol puppet show over Zoom. But as she gets further into the story, the puppets begin to take on a life of their own, transforming this ordinary call into something extraordinary.
Dec 5, 12, & 19. From $20. Online. More info and registration at spahouston.org.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
It is a truth universally acknowledged that merry mayhem ensues when a family gathers together for Christmas. One of two live Zoom readings from Main Street Theater, this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice sees Elizabeth Bennet’s … err ... Darcy’s bookish (and oft-overlooked) middle sister, Mary, become the heroine of her own story as the family gathers at Pemberley to celebrate Christmas. But is Mary’s story a romantic epic or a tragedy?
Dec 11–13. Free (registration required). Online. More info and registration at mainstreettheater.com.
The Houston Ballet is putting a different spin on their annual production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with its new digital holiday spectacular, Nutcracker Sweets. The production will include new works set to beloved holiday songs, as well as an abbreviated version of Stanton Welch’s The Nutcracker. Sugar plum fairy, here we come!
Dec 15–Jan 8. $35. Online. More info and tickets at houstonballet.org.
Buttons' Sleeping Beauty: A One-Man Outrageous Unbelievable COVID Lockdown Panto
Ryan Schabach returns as the beloved Buttons in this pandemic-inspired reimagining of the company’s longstanding tradition of holiday Panto. Get ready for an epic fairytale, a dash of puppetry, and a cast of crazy characters in this one-man holiday romp.
Dec 15–27. $25. Online. More info and tickets at stagestheatre.com.
The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley
Why have just one Austen Christmas when you can have two? The companion piece to Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley follows the servants of Pemberley as they navigate an altogether different problem than the one taking place upstairs: a very uninvited George Wickham who has shown up on their doorstep.
Dec 18–20. Free (registration required). Online. More info and registration at mainstreettheater.com.
A Baroque Christmas
The Houston Symphony understands that if it ain’t Baroque, its musicians shouldn’t fix it—which is why the orchestra is ushering in the holiday season with a special performance, featuring famous arias from Handel’s Messiah, music from Corelli’s Christmas concerto, and other festive surprises. Special guest vocalists include soprano Angela Meade, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, tenor Chad Shelton, and bass Morris Robinson. This concert is being held both in-person and in a livestream format on select dates.
Dec 4—6 (online livestream Dec 5). From $29 in-person; $20 online. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St, and online. More info at houstonsymphony.org.
An Early American Christmas
Mercury Chamber Orchestra will take listeners back in time, giving them a taste of past Christmases from across the Americas of old. The journey begins on the edge of the Saint Lawrence River in snowy Québec City before moving South to the folky hills of the Appalachian Mountains, and then ending on the Gulf Coast in the French cultural hub of New Orleans.
Dec 5. $20. Online. More info and tickets at mercuryhouston.org.
A Very Menil Christmas
Why ring in the wintery season on a bell when you can use a harp, flute, and cello. After a pandemic-induced hiatus, the Aurora Trio will perform a free, socially distanced holiday concert in Menil Park, featuring familiar tunes and work by French composer André Jolivet.
Dec 5. Free. Menil Park, 1423 Branard St. More info at eventbrite.com.
Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular
The city’s annual start to the holiday season, now in its 101st year, will be broadcast on ABC 13’s digital platform. This year’s lineup includes Grammy-winning pianist and producer Robert Glasper, R&B powerhouse Ledisi, Houston Ballet, Disney a cappella group DCappella, and local multicultural choir International Voices of Houston, among others.
December 5 and 18. Free. Online and on ABC13. More info at houstontx.gov.
An Evening of Dueling Pianos & Christmas Carols
Signed, Sealed, & Delivered’s John-Mark McGaha and The Voice finalist Patrick Thomas come to together for a holiday sing-along of Christmas season favorites. You can even make requests in real-time.
Dec 6. Free. Online. More info at adplayers.org.
Merry Christmas, Darling
A.D. Players’ first open-air concert event, Light Up the Lot, stars Chicago actress Heidi Kettenring singing the timeless treasures and holiday hits of Karen Carpenter, including "Close To You," "Merry Christmas, Darling," and "The Christmas Song.” This concert is being held both in-person and in a livestream format on select dates.
Dec 10—23 (online livestream Dec 11–12 & 18–19). From $100 in person; $35 online. A.D. Players at the George, 5420 Westheimer Rd, and online. More info at adplayers.org.
Very Merry Pops
Michael Krajewski, former principal pops conductor of the Houston Symphony, returns to lead revelers in a rousing concert of holiday carols and other season favorites, including “Feliz Navidad,” “O Holy Night,” and even “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This joy-filled concert is being held both in-person and in a livestream format on select dates.
Dec 11—20 (online livestream Dec 12 & 19). From $25 in person; $20 online. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St, and online. More info at houstonsymphony.org.
A Christmas Memory
Mercury Chamber Orchestra’s dramatic reading of Truman Capote’s short story, "A Christmas Memory," will feature a newly arranged musical accompaniment by Antoine Plate.
Dec 17. $20. Online. More info and tickets at mercuryhouston.org.
Czech Center Museum Houston Holiday Concert
Šťastné svátky. During this year’s holiday concert, several musicians will play traditional Czech and American holiday songs. Plus, there’ll be pre-show cocktails and fine hors d' oeuvres, as well as desserts, cordials, and a holiday raffle drawing following the concert in Prague Hall. Seating is limited.
Dec 18. $200. Czech Center Museum Houston, 4920 San Jacinto St. More info and tickets at czechcenter.org.
Comfort & Joy
Ars Lyrica’s holiday program includes both favorites of the season and “seldom-heard gems of the Baroque era.” Among the pieces are Scarlatti’s celebrated Christmas Cantata, written for the Christmas Eve festivities in Rome in 1711; Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus, which sets Psalm 127 to music; and Charpentier’s Noëls.
Dec 18. $10. Online. More info and tickets at arslyricahouston.org.
A Few of Our Favorite Things
Houston Pride Band’s virtual holiday concert features moments from favorite past performances, as well as small group recordings and holiday greetings from members of the group.
Dec 20. Free (donations accepted). Online. More info on Houston Pride Band’s Facebook page.
A Time to Bring Hope
The Grammy-winning Houston Chamber Choir continues its annual tradition, which has gone digital this year, featuring new performances and reflections from seasons past with a collection of carols and soon-to-be new favorites from around the world.
Dec 20. $9.99. Online. More info and tickets at houstonchamberchoir.org.
Deck the Trees
Instead of decking out its lobby this year, the Alley Theatre has moved its annual Deck the Trees event to the George R. Brown Convention Center, facing the Avenida de las Americas. Passersby will be able to enjoy the 30 beautifully decorated trees through the convention center’s windows. You can even vote for your favorite.
Thru Jan 3, 2021. Free. Online. More info at alleytheatre.org.
Marriott Marquis Presents Texas Winter Lights
The Marriott Marquis Houston is bringing a poolside twist to its inaugural Texas Winter Lights Event: an interactive light experience along its 60,000-square-foot Parkview Terrace. Every night the hotel’s Texas-shaped lazy river will be surrounded by a mile of sparkling lights, not to mention the downtown Houston skyline. Stroll around them, float under them, or swim beneath them; the choice is yours.
Thru Jan 3, 2021. $15. Marriott Marquis Houston, 1777 Walker St. More info and tickets at marriottmarquishouston.com.
Head to Space Center Houston for a light display that’s out of this world. This otherworldly experience includes two high-tech kinetic light shows—where suspended lights dance to choreographed music sequences—an interactive light pad, a snowflake projection wall, and an all-new Lights Around the World display, which celebrates 20 years of continuous human habitation aboard the International Space Station. There’ll also be special films devoted to the science of life and off-world holidays celebrations.
Thru Jan 3, 2021. From $15.95. Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Pkwy. More info and tickets at spacecenter.org.
We may be on the Gulf Coast, but we can still have a white Christmas at Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Cockrell Butterfly Center. Throughout the holiday season, the center’s rainforest conservatory will be transformed into a wintery wonderland, complete with festive lights, white flowers, and rice paper butterflies, which HMNS’s website compares to “living snowflakes.”
Thru Jan 3, 2021. From $10. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. More info and tickets at hmns.org.
Holiday Decor on Main Street
Main Street’s decked itself out in full holiday spirit. From the larger-than-life “NOEL” at Main Street Square to the light-filled trees, there really is no place like Downtown Houston for the holidays.
Thru Jan 3, 2021. Main Street. More info at downtownhouston.org.
Looking for a wild holiday light display? Head to the Houston Zoo. In addition to a variety of Christmas and animal light displays, you can stroll the 125-foot-long Infinity Tunnel of Light, snap that selfie while sitting atop the giant ice throne, and even experience “snow” in Texas. And be sure to send Candy, the Zoo Lights Zebra a wave, too.
Thru Jan 10, 2021. From $12.90. Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park Dr. More info at houstonzoo.org.
Space Age Christmas Trees Exhibit
We all love our perfectly landscaped Douglas firs, but for a hot second in the late ’50s, aluminum Christmas trees were all the rage. Evoking the glittering, chromatic scheme of the Space Age, these futuristic-looking faux ferns were in every household until the mid-’60s, even making an appearance in A Charlie Brown Christmas (albeit, not a flattering one). Now, the world’s biggest mega-show of these tinsel-toned wonders is back in Houston as part of a display featuring 100 vintage aluminum Christmas trees. Color wheels, rotating stands, halo boards and mirrors, and other aluminum tree accessories are also part of the exhibit.
Thru Jan 3, 2021. $10. 1940 Air Terminal Museum, 8325 Travelair St. More info and tickets at 1940airterminal.org.
Live Nation’s 40 Below has transformed into a Bayou City-themed spin on Dr. Seuss’s iconic Christmas village of “Whoville." Called Hou-Ville, this whimsical, walkable village features everything, from Santa’s Houston Workshop, where you can sit on a shelf beside life-size Houston Rockets plush bears; to an Astros-themed Gingerbread House Bakery, and even a fuzzy green Grinch Room. And yes, the Grinch himself has been known to make an appearance.
Dec 1–31. From $15. Live Nation’s 40 Below, 520 Texas Ave. More info and tickets at hou-ville.com.
Sugar Land Holiday Lights
The seventh annual Sugar Land Holiday Lights at Constellation Field features a whopping three million lights and tons of holiday-themed displays. And don’t forget to check out their themed events, including Silver Bells Night, Lights & Leaches, and Ugly Christmas Sweater Night.
Thru Jan 3, 2021. From $12. Constellation Field, 1 Stadium Dr. More info and tickets at sugarlandholidaylights.com.
Uptown Holiday Lights
Two miles of Post Oak Boulevard will be transformed for the holidays, with more than 300 20-foot-tall artisan-fabricated holiday trees stretching from West Loop to Richmond Avenue. Be sure to download the Uptown Radio app to get the full synchronized light-show experience.
More info at uptown-houston.com.
And don’t forget these drive-thru light displays.
The Night Before
Follow Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie’s search for the best Christmas Eve Party in NYC during this Market Square Park screening.
Dec 2. Free. Historic Market Square, 301 Milam St. More info on Market Square’s Facebook page.
The Nutcracker: Larger than Life
Turns out the Houston Ballet’s got more than one plan to fulfill your Nutcracker-y dreams. The ballet is teaming up with the Houston Museum of Natural Science to bring an abbreviated version of its cherished Christmas tradition to audiences via the big screen. Called The Nutcracker: Larger than Life, this special screening will showcase all the Sugar Plum Fairies, dancing dolls, and sword fights you could wish for in the museum’s newly renovated Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.
Dec 5—Jan 3, 2021. From $15. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. More info and tickets at hmns.org.
Drive-In Movie Night: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Die Hard 2
1940 Air Terminal Museum is hosting a family showing of the 1964 stop motion animation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Later that night, adults are invited to a decidedly not-kid-friendly screening of Die Hard 2. Tickets to each movie sold separately; space is limited.
Dec 12. From $25 per vehicle. 1940 Air Terminal Museum, 8325 Travelair St. More info and tickets at 1940airterminal.org.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Everyone knows you haven’t truly embraced the holiday season until you’ve watched the modern-day treasure that is The Muppet Christmas Carol. This 1992 adaptation of Charles Dickens’s holiday story sees Michael Caine as Scrooge, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Fozzie Bear as Mr. Fezziwig (called Fozziwig, of course), and, most importantly, Gonzo as Dickens himself.
Dec 16. Free. Historic Market Square, 301 Milam St. More info on Market Square’s Facebook page.
- Sugar Land Holiday Lights is screening The Grinch (the animated one), Elf, Polar Express, and Frozen throughout the month of December. $15. Constellation Field, 1 Stadium Dr. More info and tickets here.
- The Drive-In at Sawyer Yards is showing everything from Friday After Next to The Nightmare Before Christmas. From $28. 2301 Summer St. More info and tickets here.
- Moonstruck Drive-In Cinema is showing a variety of season favorites, including Frozen, Love Actually, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Jim Carrey one). From $30. 100 Bringhurst St. More info and tickets at here.
- Best Little Drive-In in HTX is also showing The Nightmare Before Christmas (because it’s awesome) on December 20. $30 per vehicle. Raven Tower, 310 North St. More info and tickets here.