12 don’t-miss days of Christmas

A dozen holiday happenings.
By Madeline Nusser |

One blizzard shown in 3-D

For five minutes after each sky show, the Adler Planetarium’s high tech, 70-foot Grainger Sky Theater transforms into the “World’s Largest Snow Globe.” This is a first for the Adler, so we’re not sure exactly what to expect, but we’re told to brace for a shaken snowflake effect. Daily through Jan 6; included in Holiday Universe Pass and Welcome to Universe Pass.

Two comics I love

Stop into the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit” and see holiday-themed cartoon strips as well as a video on the making of Schulz’s masterpiece, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Daily through Feb 18; general admission plus $5, plus $3 for kids.

Three dancing men

At Chicago Children’s Museum, kids can go beyond Santa. “Celebrations Around the World” teaches them about global fetes with music, dancing and customs. Dec 6, 5–8pm; included in general admission.

Four Polish words

Traditionally, the Polish Wigilia Celebration is a meatless Christmas Eve dinner, plus old school customs—such as the sharing of the wafer, which symbolizes forgiveness—and a midnight Mass. This year, families can get an early abridged version at the Polish Museum of America. 984 N Milwaukee Ave, R.S.V.P. 773-384-3352. Dec 7, 6–9pm; $25, kids ages 4–12 $15.

Five Jewish things

Learn about Hanukkahs past at “Shalom Chicago,” Chicago History Museum’s exhibition on the area’s evolving Jewish communities, from 1840s German immigrants to Polish freedom fighters. Daily through Sept 2, 2013; included in general admission.

Six kids a-skating

Wee ones can ease into ice skating by shedding their shoes and sliding around a faux ice rink at the Chicago Children’s Museum’s “Snow Much Fun” exhibitDaily through Jan 6; included in general admission.

Seven stars a-twinkling

In the Adler Planetarium’s Definiti Space Theater, an astronomy expert hosts “Season of Wonder”—a live show that explains the science behind the winter solstice, the Star of Bethlehem and other seasonal space phenomena. Daily through Jan 6; included in Holiday Universe Pass and Welcome to Universe Pass.

Eight homes a-building

Have a sweet time at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Build Your Own Gingerbread House. Each family gets gingerbread kits, decorating materials and a museum full of design inspiration. Dec 15 and 16, 11am–4pm; family of four $60, members family $50.

Nine singers chanting

To stave off the cringe factor of crooning in public, the Art Institute’s Caroling Tea offers parents cocktails and children mocktails. Dec 15 and 16, 2–4pm; $25, members $20, kids 2–12 $15.

Ten penguins a-cheeping

At Lincoln Park Zoo’s Friday Night Lights: Polar Party, four- and five-year-olds can learn how polar bears, seals and penguins stay warm in chilly climes. Then experience the cold yourself—visit the outdoor animals and the zoo’s annual ZooLights display. Dec 21, 5:30–6:30pm and 7–8pm; $16, members $13.

Eleven tree lights striping

Museum of Science and Industry’s annual exhibit, “Christmas Around the World,” displays national holiday tree-trimming customs and an enviable grand tree, this year decorated with a Peanuts theme. Through Jan 6, included in general admission.

Twelve bears lumbering

For “Holiday Magic,” the Brookfield Zoo stays open late for music and ice carving, plus laser and magic shows. Dec 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, included in general admission.