Maybe it's the unusual timing of Hanukkah, which is so early that it begins the day before Thanksgiving. Perhaps people just can't wait to pump up their inflatable lawn Santas. Either way, here we are.
(If you can believe it, this holiday story is actually being published too late for some local events. Los Altos, for example, held its downtown "Holiday Stroll," with roast chestnuts and carolers, on Nov. 8.)
Holiday time on the Midpeninsula is high season for choral concerts and ballets, of course, but it also means gift bazaars, puppet shows, tree-lighting, seasonal exhibitions, holiday parties and one-man plays. Read on to learn about many of the local highlights.
Art and exhibits
Palo Alto's Cubberley Studios artists open their doors for their annual holiday open studios on Nov. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 20 artists work in textiles, collage, sculpture and other media. The studios are in the Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road; more info is at lindagass.com/events.html.
Gallery House's holiday show and sale runs Nov. 17 through Dec. 24, with ceramics, jewelry, photography, textiles and paintings. Items are chosen with an eye to giftworthiness in various price ranges; pieces on the $55 Art Wall all have the same price in honor of the gallery's 55th anniversary. The gallery is at 320 S. California Ave., open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 to 3. Go to galleryhouse2.com.
Kids ages 5 and up can try their hands at festive activities during the Palo Alto Art Center's Holiday Family Day from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 7. The free event is at 1313 Newell Road. Go to cityofpaloalto.org/artcenter.
Abstract and modern artists are holding a holiday art exhibit and party at the Pacific Art League at 227 Forest Ave. in Palo Alto on Dec. 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Music and poetry by Jym Marks and Gary Horseman will be part of the event. More details are at leahlubin.com.
At the 26th annual Christmas Creche Exhibit at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Palo Alto, artists from around the globe offer up their own visions of one thing: the nativity scene. Media typically include ceramics, wood, textiles and even straw. Marionette shows and musical performances are scheduled throughout the exhibit, which runs Dec. 7-11, noon to 9 p.m. The church is at 3865 Middlefield Road, and admission is free. A full schedule is at christmascreche.org.
Peninsula School hosts its Craft Fair each year on the first Sunday in December (Dec. 8 this year) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Typical offerings include handmade ornaments and fine art. The school is at 920 Peninsula Way near Menlo Park. Go to peninsulaschool.org.
The "Nutcracker" season starts in November at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, thanks to the Pacific Ballet Academy. Performances of the classic are Nov. 29 at 1 and 6 p.m., Nov. 30 at 1 and 6 p.m., and Dec. 1 at 12:30 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $30/$26. The center is at 500 Castro St. Go to mvcpa.com.
Up next in "Nutcracker" land: the Western Ballet production, also at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and at 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7. Admission is $30 general and $25 for seniors, students and children. Go to mvcpa.com.
Yes, Virginia, there is another "Nutcracker." This one, presented by Dance Connection of Palo Alto, comes to Gunn High School's Spangenberg Theatre at 780 Arastradero Road in Palo Alto on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m., Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. Admission is $14-$25. Go to danceconnectionpaloalto.com.
A combination dance showcase and toy drive happens at Foothill College on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m., when longtime teacher Bubba Gong's Foothill Repertory Dance Company presents "Jingle & Mingle." Experimental works, student choreography and a visit from Santa are planned. Admission is free, and the event is in the Dance Studio in Room 2504, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Go to foothill.edu.
"'Twas The Night Before Christmas" is performed as a dance piece by Dancers Repertory Theatre and the Menlo Park Academy of Dance at Woodside High School's performing-arts center, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside. Dates are Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. and Dec. 8, 14 and 15 at 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 general and $15 for seniors and children; more info is at twasthenight.org.
Michael Smuin's "The Christmas Ballet" is oft-performed by the company that bears his name, and this year is no exception. Also on the bill for Smuin Ballet's "XXMAS" program are works set to music by unusual bedfellows Ray Charles, Mozart and The Chieftains. Local performances are Dec. 11-15: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8, and Sunday at 2, at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Go to smuinballet.org.
Los Altos' Arete Dance Center offers up ballroom dance, holiday-style, with "Dance: An International Holiday." A local performance is scheduled for 8 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St.; admission is $27 and more info is at aretedancecenter.com.
Bayer Ballet Academy presents "A Winter Fairy Tale," a Russian tale set in a magical forest, on Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 2:30. Performances are at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Tickets are $30 general and $25 for seniors and children. Go to bayerballetacademy.com.
"Saxes for the Season," a quartet with three types of saxophones, performs jazz and traditional holiday numbers at 7 p.m. Dec. 5, at the Community School of Music and Arts, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View. Admission is free. Go to arts4all.org.
It's all about tradition at "A Festival of Lessons and Carols," presented by Stanford's Memorial Church Choir under the direction of Robert Huw Morgan. The annual holiday program takes its inspiration from the service at King's College. Admission is free, and the Memorial Church concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6. Go to music.stanford.edu.
The music continues in Memorial Church at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 7, when the Friends of Music at Stanford put on the yearly "Holiday Musicale" spotlighting university music department ensembles. Tickets are $15 general and $10 for seniors and students. Go to music.stanford.edu.
Music and costumes from 16th-century Tudor England, courtesy of today's young singers. That's the annual Madrigal Feaste put on by the Palo Alto High School choirs at 50 Embarcadero Road. A meal fit for a king is part of the festivities, which start at 2 p.m. on Dec. 7 and 8. More info is at paly.net; for ticketing details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"A Jazzy Little Christmas" is Soli Deo Gloria's holiday concert, planned for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, 305 N. California Ave. Bob Chilcott's "A Little Jazz Mass" headlines the program. Tickets are $26 general and $21 for students and seniors. Go to sdgloria.org.
Mozart, Purcell and Handel will all be represented at "A Cheerful Noise," performed by the Ragazzi Boys Chorus at 5 p.m. Dec. 7. Also: a choral mashup of Latin and African chant in Paul Halley's arrangement of "Ubi Caritas." Tickets are $10-$27, and the concert is at the First Congregational Church, 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto. Go to ragazzi.org.
San Francisco Choral Artists presents "Sweet Voices & Noyses: Christmas In Italy," with carols, motets, folksongs and the Renaissance wind band The Whole Noyse. The concert is at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 in St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. Admission is $25 general, $22 for seniors and $12 for students. Go to sfca.org.
"Harps for the Holidays" means 20-plus harps and organist T. Paul Rosas performing seasonal and classical music at the Los Altos United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. Dec. 7. The concert is at 655 Magdalena Ave. in Los Altos, and tickets are $12 to $15. Go to harpeggio.com/concert.html.
The Peninsula Women's Chorus has a three-fer with a trio of "Illuminate This Night" concerts, featuring Conrad Susa's "Carols and Lullabies," carols from Spain, Mexico and other places. Dates: Dec. 7 and 14 at 2:30 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto; and Dec. 15 at 4 p.m. at St. Patrick's Seminary, 320 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park. Tickets are $30-$35 ($10 for students 18 and under), with more info at pwchorus.org.
Music by Lassus, Gabrieli and others is on the program for the Bay Choral Guild's "A Renaissance Christmas" Dec. 8 concert at 4:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Church, 305 N. California Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $25 general, $20 for seniors and $5 for students. Go to baychoralguild.org.
Schola Cantorum joins forces with Oxford Street Brass for "Holidays Are For Singing," a concert featuring a new composition by John Cavallaro, Benjamin Britten's "Hymn to the Virgin" and other seasonal selections. The concert starts at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St.; tickets are $30 general, $25 for seniors and $20 for students and children. Go to scholacantorum.org or call 650-903-6000.
Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook and other singers will perform at West Bay Opera's holiday concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 6 in the performing-arts center at Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton. Tickets are $45-$50 and benefit the company and the Opera in the Schools program. Go to wbopera.org.
"A Chanticleer Christmas" spotlights the San Francisco men's chorus at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Stanford's Memorial Church. Tickets are $28-$56 ($10 for Stanford students). Go to live.stanford.edu.
The Stanford Baroque Soloists perform "There were shepherds abiding in the fields..." at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in Stanford's Memorial Church. The concert is free. Go to music.stanford.edu.
The Menlo Park Chorus joins forces with the Rainbow Women's Chorus for a holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in the performing-arts center at Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton. Admission is $12-$15. Go to menloparkchorus.org.
Stanford's annual "Messiah Sing Along / Play Along," led by the ever-upbeat Stephen Sano, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in Stanford's Memorial Church. Tickets are $15 general and $10 for students and seniors. Go to music.stanford.edu.
The Community School of Music and Arts' Merit Scholarship ensembles play a student holiday concert of seasonal songs at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at 230 San Antonio Circle in Mountain View. Admission is free. Go to arts4all.org.
Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito sings holiday tunes and standards in many languages at his "White Christmas" concert at 8 p.m. Dec. 14, at Menlo-Atherton High School's performing-arts center, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton.. Tickets are $55-$65, with some of the proceeds benefiting diabetes research; details are at pasqualeesposito.com.
For three decades, the Gryphon Carolers have been putting on an unusual show of holiday music with sounds from many lands. This year's concert is 7 p.m. Dec. 14 in the Eagle Theater at Los Altos High School, 201 Almond Ave., Los Altos. Go to gryphoncarollers.com.
The California Bach Society presents "Christmas with Peter Warlock and Henry VIII," a program of Christmas music in England from the Middle Ages to the present, including Warlock's contemporary settings of early texts. The concert is at 8 p.m. Dec. 14 in All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Admission is $10-$25. Go to calbach.org.
Stanford's pipe organist extraordinaire, Robert Huw Morgan, plays his annual holiday recital at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15 in the university's Memorial Church. The performance is free. Go to music.stanford.edu.
The Kitka women's chorus, which specializes in music from Eastern Europe, performs its "Wintersongs" concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at St. Bede's Episcopal Church, 2650 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park. Tickets are $5-$27; details are at kitka.org.
Classical and seasonal music is on the bill for the California Youth Symphony's free holiday concert, planned for 2:30 p.m. Dec. 15 in Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Go to cys.org.
Harper Hall Harp Ensembles plays a Christmas concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 670 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto. Suggested donation is $10. Go to covenantpresbyterian.net.
Schola Cantorum's "Messiah Sing 2013" is more comprehensive than some of the others around. Prepare to delve deeply into the score. Under the baton of Gregory Wait, the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Tickets are $22 general and $18 for seniors, students and children. Go to scholacantorum.org.
At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir presents its Gospel Holiday Concert at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Admission is $36 general, $31 for seniors and students, and $28 for children. Go to oigc.org.
The Magnificat Baroque ensemble shows off its polychoral style with "A Venetian Christmas Mass," performed at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 in the First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto. The wind band The Whole Noyse will join in. Tickets are $12-$35. Go to magnificatbaroque.com.
Ragazzi Continuo, a men's ensemble composed of graduates of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, presents a concert called "Mary Had A Baby" at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto. All the music is dedicated to the biblical Mary, including the titular spiritual. Tickets are $20. Go to ragazzicontinuo.org.
Actor Michael Champlin stars in "This Wonderful Life," a one-man telling of "A Christmas Carol," at the Pear Avenue Theatre from Dec. 6-Dec. 22. The theater is at 1220 Pear Ave., Unit K, in Mountain View, and tickets are $10-$35. Go to thepear.org or call 650-254-1148.
Over in Menlo Park, actor Duffy Hudson also gets in on the act, presenting his own one-man "A Christmas Carol" at 11 a.m. Dec. 7. The family-friendly performance is in the City Council chambers at 701 Laurel St.
The Tomie dePaola children's book "Merry Christmas, Strega Nona" gets its moment in the spotlight with a theatrical adaptation presented by Peninsula Youth Theatre. Performances are Dec. 6 at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 7 at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.Tickets are $8 on Friday morning, $12 on Friday evening and $10 on Saturday. Go to mvcpa.com or call 650-903-6000.
Kids and families
Children ages 4 to 9 (and their adults) are invited to a holiday party at the Allied Arts Guild at 75 Arbor Road in Menlo Park from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Dec. 8. Activities will include a visit from Santa, Max the Accordion Man playing holiday music, and a puppet show by Magical Moonshine Theater. Admission is $25. Go to alliedartsguild.org.
Pony rides, a petting zoo, 4-H demonstrations and students singing carols are among the festivities planned for the Westwind Barn's free holiday barn-lighting from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 8. Seasonal games, craft tables and refreshments will also be on offer. The event is at 27210 Altamont Road, Los Altos Hills. Call 650-947-2518.
The Puppet Company presents the holiday mystery puppet show "One Wacky Winter" from 4 to 5 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Atherton Library, 2 Dinkelspiel Station Lane. Admission is free. Go to smcl.org.
Kids line up for "Living LEGO-cy," the huge holiday-themed display of LEGO cityscapes and model railroads at the Museum of American Heritage at 351 Homer Ave. in Palo Alto. Putting it all together are the Bay Area LEGO User Group and the Bay Area LEGO Train Club. Exhibit dates are Dec. 13-Jan. 16, and the museum is open 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday. Admission is $2 general and free for members. Go to moah.org.
Also popular are the holiday puppet shows at Gamble Garden. This year's offering, aimed at kids ages 3 to 10, is "The Nutcracker," presented by The Puppet Company. Performances are Dec. 14 in the Carriage House at 1431 Waverley St. in Palo Alto, at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 general and $10 for members. Go to gamblegarden.org.
Young professionals celebrate Hanukkah with the annual "Light It Up!" party at Hillel at Stanford, 565 Mayfield Ave., on Nov. 23 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. This year's theme is "Venetian Ball," with live music, dancing, blackjack and, of course, dreidel. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Go to paloaltojcc.org.
Gift shoppers can buy purses, jewelry, fragrances, hand-woven scarves, Nicaraguan art and other items at the holiday boutique at All Saints' Church at 555 Waverley St. in Palo Alto from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 23. Proceeds benefit the church's outreach programs. Go to asaints.org.
Woodside's Filoli mansion and gardens starts up the nine-day "Ice Fantasy: New Traditions" holiday fundraiser on Nov. 29, with the historic rooms turned into a holiday showcase. Choral ensembles and other musicians will perform. Ticket prices for events range from $25 to $85. Filoli is at 86 Canada Road; go to filoli.org.
Palo Alto lights its Lytton Plaza Christmas tree on Nov. 30 with a tree-lighting and snowman competition planned from 4 to 7 p.m. The plaza is at 202 University Ave. Go to cityofpaloalto.org.
The Festival of Lights Parade marches through downtown Los Altos on Dec. 1, starting at 6 p.m. at First and State streets. Thousands of folks are expected to turn out to watch the illuminated floats go by, along with high school marching bands and Santa in his sleigh. Go to losaltosparade.com.
A special screening of the 1995 animal movie "Babe" is set for 7 p.m. Dec. 5 as a holiday fundraiser and gala for the Palo Alto Humane Society. Bagpiper Jeff Campbell will perform on the red carpet before the screening, followed by the music group The JewelTones at intermission. Admission is $5 and includes popcorn and a drink. The event is at the Aquarius Theatre, 430 Emerson St., Palo Alto. Go to paloaltohumane.org.
Local, festively decorated homes are stops along tours in "Finishing Touches: A Holiday Tour of Fine Homes & Boutique," put on by the Junior League of Palo Alto/Mid Peninsula. The tours and other activities are Dec. 6 and 7; tickets start at $40. Details are at thejuniorleague.org/home-tour.
Menlo Park's Allied Arts Guild hosts a Christmas market with caroling, crafts and a visit from Santa from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7. The guild is at 75 Arbor Road. Go to alliedartsguild.org.
Who says railroads have lost their romance? On Dec. 7 and 8, Caltrain's holiday train will make local stops, strung with lots of lights and delivering a Salvation Army brass band, carolers and the extended Claus family. The train makes 20-minute stops at Palo Alto's California Avenue station at 6:50 p.m. Dec. 7 and at the Menlo Park station at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 8. A full schedule is at holiday-train.org.
With minstrels strolling, wreaths being made and handmade gifts being sold, it must be time for the holiday bazaar at Deborah's Palm. Folks will buy ornaments, linens, artwork, candy and other items from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at 555 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto. Go to deborahspalm.org.
Mountain View lights it up on Dec. 9 with a 5:30 p.m. community tree-lighting party. Holiday music, refreshments and kids' photo sessions with Santa are planned. The event is at the Civic Center Plaza at 500 Castro St. Go to mountainview.gov.
A holiday open house at Mountain View's oldest house, Rengstorff House, promises Victorian flair, along with seasonal decor, carols and Mr. Claus himself. The free event goes from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 at 3070 N. Shoreline Blvd. Go to r-house.org.
The Mountain View Senior Center hosts a holiday gala with live music by Jerry Jay's Quartet from 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at 266 Escuela Ave. Admission is free. Go to mountainview.gov.
Mulled wine, gingerbread, live music and artisan booths will be among the offerings at the German Holiday Market hosted by the German American International School of Silicon Valley from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 14. The free event is at Civic Center Plaza, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. Go to www.gissv.org/GermanHolidayMarket.
"Chopshticks" is a comedy night for folks who think of Dec. 24 as just another night. Hosted by the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center at 3921 Fabian Way in Palo Alto, the show starts at 7:30 p.m. and features stand-up comedian Mark Schiff. Tickets are $55 in advance and $60 at the door, and $50 in advance for JCC members. Go to paloaltojcc.org.