Essential holiday events

The season's unmissable shows and festivities.

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Photograph: Robert Irwin Wolf

nycgaymenschorus

NYC Gay Men's Chorus at The Town Hall

Handel's Messiah
Though most choruses perform the masterpiece early in the month, the Oratorio Society of New York saves its treatment for Christmas week. More than 200 voices create a wall of sound that fills Carnegie Hall—vastly different from the more demure interpretations of Handel's day.  If you prefer to raise your own voice, join 3,000 others at the annual National Chorale Handel's Messiah Sing-In on December 20. Oratorio Society: Carnegie Hall, Seventh Ave at 57th St (212-247-7800, oratoriosocietyofny.org). Dec 19 at 8pm; $22--$85. * National Chorale: Avery Fisher Hall (at Lincoln Center), Broadway at 64th St (212-721-6500, lincolncenter.org). Dec 20 at 7:30pm; $34--$112.

NYC Gay Men's Chorus Holiday Spectacular 2011: Holiday House of Love
Seasonal campiness takes center stage in this frenetic show, which includes original tunes and jazzy interpretations of holiday classics. The Town Hall, 123 W 43rd St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-344-1777, nycgmc.org). Dec 18 at 3, 8pm; $40--$75.
 
Isaac Mizrahi reads Peter and the Wolf
The sassy fashion designer and reality-TV host narrates the children's tale, accompanied by music from the Juilliard Ensemble and backed by balloon sculptures of each character in the story, created by artist Jason Hackenwerth. At a breezy 30 minutes, the reading makes for a good shopping break. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Ave at 88th St (212-423-3587, worksandprocess.org). Dec 10, 11, 16--18 at 2:30, 4pm; $30--$35.
 
Kwanzaa Celebration at Apollo Theater
Kick off Kwanzaa by honoring its seven core values through music and dance. Hosted by WBLS-FM radio personality Imhotep Gary Bird, the fete showcases Abdel Salaam's Forces of Nature Dance Theatre—whose style melds elements of contemporary, West African, ballet, house and hip-hop dance. 253 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd (Seventh Ave) and Frederick Douglass Blvd (Eighth Ave) (212-531-5300, apollotheater.org). Dec 30 at 7:30pm; $14--$16.
 
The Nutcracker
Traditionalists can take in one of New York City Ballet's iconic performances—complete with the nine-foot-wide Mother Ginger character and Tchaikovsky's evocative score. Or head to BAM to see a staging by American Ballet Theatre, which was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky; the company forwent its entire New York fall season to prepare. NYCB: David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center), Columbus Ave at 63rd St (212-870-5570, nycballet.com). $29--$225. Nov 23--Dec 31. * ABT: BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org). Dec 14--31; $25--$120.
 
Winter Solstice Celebration at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

Though the actual winter solstice falls on December 21, you can get a jump on celebrating the year's shortest day (and longest night) at Paul Winter's annual concert. 1047 Amsterdam Ave at 111th St (866-811-4111, solsticeconcert.com). Dec 15, 16 at 8pm; Dec 17 at 2, 7:30pm. $35--$50, reserved seating $80.
 
Holiday Train Show at the
Embrace your love of the city and nature simultaneously inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where organic materials (bark, fruit, leaves, etc.) comprise Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building and more than 140 other landmarks. This year, you can get a behind-the-scenes peek at the artists' studios and see photos, artifacts and other items illustrating how the tiny replicas are made. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, exit 7W, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org). $10--$20. Nov 19--Jan 16.

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Raibert
Raibert

Another great "must see" holiday essential in my book is the Pipes of Christmas. All the warmth, wonder and joy of Christmas with a Celtic flair. Now in its 12th year. Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2:30 PM at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - www.pipesofchristmas.com.