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Photograph: Alex PalmerSanta ClausAvoid the dudes in red suits at department stores (haven’t you read Holidays on Ice?) and instead learn about New Yorkers who did some good in the name of Kris Kringle. A new exhibit, “The Santa Claus Association,” looks at a group of volunteers—led by John Duvall Gluck Jr., an early-20th-century publicist—who would answer the letters that NYC children mailed to Santa. Compiled by Gluck’s relative Alex Palmer (a TONY contributor), the exhibit traces the group’s history, showcasing archival images and newsletters, as well as some of the actual missives that started it all in 1913. City Reliquary Museum, 370 Metropolitan Ave at Havemeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-782-4842, cityreliquary.org). Thu–Sun noon–6pm; suggested donation $5. Through Feb 10.
Photograph: Carol RoseggThe leg lamp from A Christmas StoryThe classic, oft-televised 1983 film—based on author Jean Shepherd’s memoirs—has introduced a plethora of symbols to the Christmas canon, from the Red Ryder BB gun to a hideous pink bunny suit. Perhaps the most enduring is the leg lamp (it’s “fra-gee-lay,” you know), which has been immortalized in Christmas ornaments and at a museum in Cleveland devoted to the movie. In the new Broadway musical adaptation, the slightly cheesy prize is even the subject of its own song: “A Major Award,” sung by the Old Man (played by John Bolton) and accompanied by a kick line of lamps. Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W 46th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (achristmasstorythemusical.com). Dates and times vary; $39–$159. Through Dec 30.
Photograph: Rosalie O'ConnorThe Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King et al.You’re probably already familiar with New York City Ballet’s version of Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas production. For a change of pace, head to Brooklyn, where American Ballet Theatre is staging its own version of The Nutcracker for the third year running. Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, the company’s artist-in-residence, the production features the usual suspects—Clara, the titular prince, the toys coming to life—as well as some unexpected touches (“The Waltz of the Flowers,” for example, features male bees dancing with the customary female flowers). BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org). Dates and times vary; $25–$125. Through Sun 16.
Frosty the Snowman You’ll probably see a cornucopia of holiday icons at Sufjan Stevens’s yuletide concerts, titled—wait for it—“The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-a-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice.” (Phew!) The indie-rocker’s love-hate relationship with the season is well documented: He’s released two mammoth Christmas collections, the most recent of which, Silver & Gold, includes off-kilter tunes like “Mr. Frosty Man.” (The video features a Claymation snowman laying waste to a horde of holiday-ruining zombies.) Given Stevens’s penchant for spectacle—early reports have mentioned unicorn costumes and a “Wheel of Christmas” that helps decide which tunes get sung—we’re expecting these concerts to be a jolly good time. The Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St between Bowery and Chrystie St (bowerypresents.com). Fri 21, Sat 22 at 9pm; $20. Tickets go on sale Wed 19.
Photograph: Ken HowardChristmas carolersIf you prefer your yuletide sing-alongs to be less whimsical and more traditional, head to Washington Square Park on Christmas Eve. There you’ll find a group of carolers, led by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet, belting out classic holiday tunes near the 45-foot-tall tree underneath the space’s iconic arch. Grab a songbook and add your voice to “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” Meet at the Washington Square Park Arch, Washington Sq North at Fifth Ave (washingtonsquarenyc.org). Mon 24 at 5pm; free.
Where to find traditional Christmas icons in New York City
See traditional Christmas emblems such as Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and carolers at these holiday events in NYC.
During the holidays, the city is bedecked with traditional Christmas trimmings such as trees, holly wreaths and twinkly lights. We’ve rounded up events where you can find even more traditional Christmas icons, including an exhibit devoted to Santa Claus and a sing-along concert hosted by Sufjan Stevens featuring a cornucopia of holiday iconography.