With much publicity, the shopping season started earlier than ever this year, but there are also many people of all ages who crave other ways to celebrate the season beyond standing in checkout lines.
All over the Boston suburbs, arts calendars bristle with options, from concerts to plays to sing-alongs to the Concord Museum’s famous annual tree exhibition.
Brendan Pelley knows the holiday season is truly under way when he sees excited children bounding into his workplace. Pelley doesn’t work at a toy store, or as a mall Santa, and the kids who flock to see him every December don’t have long wish lists in hand. Pelley is the executive chef at Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar in Medfield, which for the past 12 years has offered workshops on how to make a gingerbread house throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“Everyone who comes has a blast — kids and adults alike,” said Pelley. “We have kids who come to their first workshop when they are four or five years old and keep coming back year after year until they are teenagers. It’s just so much fun. The kids get to be creative and make a big mess, and we clean it up afterwards.
“Last year my own son came and made a gingerbread house; we gave it to Nana for a gift.”
According to Pelley, Zebra’s owner, Craig Neubecker, began the workshops when his children were young. Now those same children are teenagers, and work as assistants at the workshops.
“We preassemble the houses and have royal icing all ready to go in pastry bags,” Pelley said. “There’s a giant table with hundreds of pieces of candy to choose from, and our assistants help out. It’s very cute and just an awesome holiday tradition.”
Gingerbread house workshops take place at Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar, 21 North St. in Medfield, at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. They are recommended for children ages 6 and up. The $60 cost of the class is for one parent and one child, and includes all supplies. A limited number of spaces for additional children can be added to the general admission rate for $20. To purchase tickets or for more information, including a class schedule, go to www.zebrasbistro.com/gingerbread.
The Concord Museum offers its 18th annual “Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature,” on exhibit through Jan. 1. The museum’s galleries are filled with 36 fanciful trees of all shapes and sizes, decorated with original ornaments inspired by acclaimed children’s storybooks and favorite contemporary picture books.
The museum will host Author/Illustrator Day next Sunday, when authors and illustrators whose books inspired trees in the exhibition — including Ed Emberley, Rebecca Emberley, Bill Harley, Jane Kohuth, Wendell Minor, Ilse Plume, and Matt Taveras — will be on hand to greet visitors and sign copies of their books.
The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The museum will be closed all day Christmas and at 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Admission to the Family Trees exhibition is $15 adults, $10 seniors, $6 for ages 4 to 18, and free for younger children and museum members. The ticket also provides access to all of the galleries and special shows at the museum, at 53 Cambridge Turnpike.
For more information, call 978-369-9609 or go online to www.concordmuseum.org.
Dynamic a cappella quintet Vox One, which combines elements of blues, funk, gospel, and folk into its own distinctive style of vocal music, performs Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown.
Tickets are $20; $18 for members; $15 for students. For tickets or more information, call 617-923-8487 or go to www.arsenalarts.org.
The Lexington Symphony presents its Holiday Pops concerts in Cary Hall on Friday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. The earlier concert is geared toward children, with a program of popular holiday carols, costumed elves, a brass ensemble performance, and a special visitor from the North Pole.
The symphony’s evening concert includes sing-alongs with seasonal music, collaborative performances with the Master Singers, Lexington Pops Chorus, and Lexington High School Madrigals, and lively renditions of holiday favorites.
Tickets for the afternoon concert are $8 for ages 12 and under, and $20 for adults. Tickets for the evening concert are $15 for students and $40 for adults. Organizers recommend buying tickets in advance; they can be purchased online at www.lexingtonsymphony.org or by calling 781-523-9009.
Tickets will be sold at the door based on availability.
On Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:30 a.m., the Regent Theatre presents Legacy Dance Company’s ninth annual Holiday Spectacular, an upbeat, family-friendly show featuring the studio’s locally and nationally renowned ensembles, including the About Time Tappers, Adult Jazz Performers, and Dance Inn Youth Intensive.
Dance routines in tap, jazz, ballet, modern, hip-hop, and contemporary choreography are set to classic holiday tunes like “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.”
Tickets to the performances at the Regent, 7 Medford St. in Arlington, are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 781-646-4849 or go to www.regenttheatre.com.
The Reagle Music Theatreof Greater Boston presents its 31st anniversary production of “ChristmasTime,” a holiday season musical spectacular opening Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington St. in Waltham.
The shows continue at 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday, and again Dec. 13-15.
This regional tradition features a full orchestra, singing and dancing, Santa’s Workshop, the Teddy Bears’ Nutcracker, the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, Victorian Christmas, precision dancers, and the Living Nativity.
Tickets are $35 to $57; or $25 for ages 5 to 18. Seniors (age 55 and older) receive a $3 discount. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.reaglemusictheatre.com, or call 781-891-5600.
Satirical musicians Christine Lavin and Uncle Bonsai share their humorous perspective on the holidays at the Amazing Things Arts Center, 160 Hollis St. in Framingham, at 8 p.m. Friday.
The “Just One Angel Holidays on Thin Ice” concert tour features selections from their individual repertoires alongside new holiday songs.
Tickets are $15-$30; call 508-405-2787 or go to www.amazingthings.org.
“A Joyful Noyse,” an early music ensemble in residence at Hancock Church in Lexington, presents music from 18th century France on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at 1912 Massachusetts Ave. in Lexington.
The concert is free, with a free-will donation accepted at the door to support the church’s music programs.
For more information, call 781-862-4220 or visit www.hancockchurch.org.
In Bellingham, Steps off Broadway Productions performs “Nuttapper” Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and next Sunday at 2 p.m., with additional shows Dec. 13-15, at the ensemble’s Cabaret Theater, 799 South Main St.
This nontraditional Nutcracker includes familiar elements such as the original Tchaikovsky score but adds the innovative element of tap dancing.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and ages 11 and younger. They can be purchased in advance by calling 508-876-9797 or e-mailing email@example.com.
Harvard Pro Musica presents a holiday concert Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church, 9 Ayer Road in the town center.
Led by Newton resident Anne Watson Born, who is serving as the ensemble’s interim music director, the chorus will perform Francois Poulenc’s “Gloria” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death. Other works on the program are “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl, “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson, “Ecce Virgo Concipiet” by Jan Sweelinck, and seasonal pieces from England, France, and the United States by Billings, Read, Costeley, Berlioz, and Mathias, as well as several carol arrangements by Willcocks and Rutter.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and free for children 12 and under. For details, visit www.harvardpromusica.org.
Cantilena performs “A Ceremony of Carols” for harp and women’s chorus, featuring Benjamin Britten’s iconic work in celebration of the composer’s 100th birthday, at 4 p.m. next Sunday at First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, 630 Massachusetts Ave.
Also on the program will be the Cuban rhythms of Paul Csonka’s “Concierto de Navidad,” and the soothing Catalan lullaby “El Noi de la Mare.”
Tickets are $20, $12 for students and seniors; or $18 in advance at the Book Rack, 13 Medford St. in Arlington.
“A Special Hanukkah Holiday Concert” will feature the music of Klezwoods, an amalgam of strings, horns, and percussion that melds the spirit of traditional klezmer and Balkan music with modern grooves and improvisation, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in Bigelow Auditorium at the Marlborough Public Library, 35 West Main St. Admission is free. For details, call 413-648-9663 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston Saengerfest Men’s Chorus performs “This Child, This King” on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 848 Beacon St. in Newton Centre, and on Dec. 15 at 4 p.m. at the Regis College Fine Arts Center, 235 Wellesley St. in Weston.
Tickets are $25 general admission; $5 for students with ID. With carols, sing-alongs and holiday classics, the program also features American composer Daniel Gawthrop’s “This Child, This King” in a world premiere arrangement for male chorus, timpani, keyboard, and harp by Saengerfest music director emeritus Michael Driscoll.
Another highlight is Conrad Susa’s popular Spanish-influenced “Carols and Lullabies: Christmas in the Southwest” for chorus, harp, guitar and marimba.
For more information, go to www.saengerfest.org.
Indian Hill Music School presents its annual Holiday Sing-Along at 10 a.m. Dec. 21 at 36 King St. in Littleton.
All ages are invited to sing, dance, play instruments, and celebrate songs and stories of the season at the free event.
For more details, call 978-486-9524 or go to www.indianhillmusic.org.
On Dec. 21 at 3 p.m., Diane Taraz presents her seventh annual “Carols by Candlelight,” featuring selections from her latest CD, “A Victorian Christmas,” at Church of Our Saviour, 21 Marathon St., Arlington.
The concert will range from light and festive to serene and contemplative, with several sing-along numbers. Tickets are $12; $8 for students and seniors. The audience is encouraged to bring canned goods for the Arlington Food Pantry.
Be sure to always call individual venues or check their websites before attending events to confirm times, especially if the weather is questionable.
Nancy Shohet Wset can be reached at nancyswest@ gmail.com