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Marking 'the marvels and mysteries' of winter

Local arts and entertainment highlights of the holiday season

Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble will perform seasonal songs at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Menlo Park on Dec. 8 and at Filoli on Dec. 18. Photo by John Nilsen.

"I can't help but think there is almost something evolutionary about people singing together in winter time," Kitka Executive Artistic Director Shira Cion said while reflecting on the number of choral concerts that happen around the holidays. Kitka is a long-running women's harmony ensemble performing music from Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Balkans plus original compositions, representing a number of cultural and religious traditions.

"What's universal is what happens to the human soul at midwinter when the nights are long and dark and the temperature is colder and, in more traditional times, just merely surviving through the winter season was a very tangible challenge," she said. "It's an ancient human instinct for people to come together and sing."

Kitka has been performing its popular "Wintersongs" concerts around the Bay Area for nearly 20 years, and will be doing so locally again with a full concert at St. Bede's Episcopal Church, 2650 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, on Dec. 8, 4-6 p.m., and as part of Filoli's winter solstice celebration on Dec. 18 (between 5-8 p.m. at 86 Cañada Road, Woodside).

"It's seasonal music that speaks to the marvels and mysteries of winter time," she said, adding that this year, inspired by concerns about climate change and its impact on the weather, including California's recent wildlifes, the performances will have the theme of "Weathering the Storm," the first in a series of planned "Vocal Ecology" concerts with an environmental theme.

"About half of the program is selections that speak to winter weather and climate ... and we're balancing those more climate-themed pieces with ritual carols and sacred songs that sort of bring comfort and warmth and light and good cheer to the darkest, coldest, most difficult time of the year," she said.

Information on Kitka, including links to tickets, can be found at kitka.org.

Filoli's winter solstice festival is part of Holidays at Filoli, running through Dec. 30, which also includes seasonal decorations and festively lit gardens, holiday teas, "decadence nights," Santa Claus Saturdays, artisan market weekends and live performances in the ballroom on evenings and weekends. Information is available at filoli.org.

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Weekly journalists discuss this year's upcoming holiday events on an episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

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More December holiday highlights, listed in roughly chronological order, are presented below (event info is subject to change). Looking for "Nutcracker" productions? Click here. For even more listings, or to submit your own, check out the community calendar at Palo Alto Online.

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Ernie's trains

What: John Bianco is continuing his late father's tradition of putting on a holiday model-train display.

When: Weather permitting, five tracks will run trains every evening (except Mondays) through Dec. 25 from 6:30-9 p.m.

Where: 2387 Adele Ave., Mountain View.

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'Miracle on 34th Street'

What: Los Altos Stage Company presents the classic Santa story performed in the style of a live 1940s era radio broadcast.

When: Through Dec. 22.

Where: 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos.

More information: Los Altos Stage Company.

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'The Christmas Ballet'

What: Smuin presents its Christmas-themed performance, incorporating classical ballet and contemporary dance into a two-act show ("Classical Christmas," featuring traditional carols, followed by "Cool Christmas," featuring pop favorites).

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

More information: Smuin.

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Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade

What: Downtown Los Altos' annual Festival of Lights Parade features floats, marching bands and more.

Where: Downtown Los Altos.

When: Dec. 1, 6-8 p.m.

More information: Downtown Los Altos will also hold a tree-lighting celebration on Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m. Los Altos Parade; Downtown Los Altos.

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'Gypsy Soul Holiday Experience'

What: Eclectic jazz-pop duo Gypsy soul puts its own spin on holiday music.

Where: Club Fox, 2209 Broadway St., Redwood City.

When: Dec. 1, 7 p.m

More information: Club Fox.

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Menlo Park tree-lighting ceremony

What: Menlo Park's tree-lighting event will feature a sing-along, a storytime with Santa and more.

Where: Fremont Park, Menlo Park.

When: Dec. 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

More information: Menlo Park.

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BayLUG Holiday Show

What: The Bay Area LEGO® User Group and BayLTC, the Bay Area L-Gauge Train Club will showcase their annual holiday miniature scene, this year with a beach theme.

Where: Museum of American Heritage, 351 Homer Ave., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 6-Jan. 5, 2020 (Friday-Sunday each week, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).

More information: MOAH.

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West Bay Model Railroad Holiday Train Show

What: Model trains of various types will run in a holiday scene while members answer questions.

Where: South side of Caltrain station, 1090 Merrill St., Menlo Park.

When: Dec. 7, 1-5 p.m.; Dec. 8, 1-8 p.m.

More information: 650-964-5603.

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'Celebrations of the Season: Stories of Our Immigrant Heritage'

What: Ragazzi Boys Chorus will perform music from Poland, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, China, and Africa, highlighting each culture's contribution to the melting pot of American culture, along with other seasonal songs.

Where: First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, 625 Hamilton Ave.

When: Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.

More information: Ragazzi Boys Chorus.

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Christmas Creche exhibition

What: An annual exhibition of a collection of more than 250 nativity scenes from all over the world.

Where: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3865 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 7-11, noon to 9 p.m.

More information: Christmas Creche.

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'Friends of Music Holiday Musicale'

What: The Friends of Music at Stanford present their annual holiday showcase featuring the Stanford Philharmonia and Stanford Chamber Chorale, performing works by Holst, Handel and others.

Where: Memorial Church, 450 Serra St., Stanford.

When: Dec. 7, 2:30 p.m.

More information: Stanford Music.

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Hometown Holidays

What: Redwood City's annual downtown celebration includes a community parade, snow and performances from local entertainers. The San Mateo History Museum will host old-fashioned holiday crafts, a handbell choir and Santa.

Where: Downtown Redwood City,

When: Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

More information: Hometown Holidays. Other Redwood City holiday events include a "Winter Wonderland" event at Red Morton Community Center on Dec. 14; Gabriel's Trumpets holiday performance at the library on Dec. 18; a series of cultural holiday events at the Library Dec. 16, 18 and 20; a holiday sing-along at the Veteran's Memorial Center on Dec. 20 and Chabad Midpen's 10th-annual Chanukah celebration on Dec. 22. Find more events here.

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Caltrain Holiday Train

What: Caltrain's festive Holiday Train will make nine stops along the Peninsula, boasting lights, entertainment, characters and a chance for locals to donate a new, unwrapped toy to the annual toy drive.

Where: The train will stop in Redwood City at 6:10 p.m. and Mountain View at 7:25 p.m. on Dec. 7; and Menlo Park at 7:05 p.m. on Dec. 8.

More information: Holiday Train.

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Gamble Garden holiday events

What: Gamble Garden will host holiday activities including a wreath-making class on Dec. 7, a holiday marketplace Dec. 11-13, a greens sale on Dec. 14 and "Reindeer Games" on Dec. 15.

Where: 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto.

More information:Gamble Garden.

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Woodside Village Band holiday concert

What: The Woodside Village Band will perform a selection of holiday tunes.

Where: Woodside Village Church, 3154 Woodside Road.

When: Dec. 7, 3 p.m.

More information: Woodside Village Band.

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'20 Harps for the Holidays'

What: Harpeggio Music presents a holiday concert by harp soloists and ensemble.

Where: Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave.

When: Dec. 7, 4 p.m.

More information: Harpeggio.

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'An Evening with The Choral Project'

What: The Choral Project will perform seasonal songs as a benefit for Bodhi Tree Concerts North, a concert series that raises money for charity.

Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.

More information: BTCNorth.

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''Twas the Night Before Christmas'

What: Dancers Repertory Theatre presents the annual dance and theater production of the classic holiday poem.

Where: Woodside Performing Arts Center, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside.

When: Dec. 8, 15 at 1 and 4 p.m.; Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.

More information: twasthenight.org.

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Holiday barn lighting

What: Los Altos Hills celebrates the season with a visit from Santa, games, crafts, a petting zoo, refreshments and the lighting of the community barn.

Where: Westwind Community Barn, 27210 Altamont Road, Los Altos Hills.

When: Dec. 8, 2-5 p.m.

More information: Los Altos Hills.

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Mountain View tree-lighting

What: The city of Mountain View will hold its community tree-lighting ceremony, including a visit from Santa Claus. Donations of canned food for the Community Services Agency are encouraged.

Where: Civic Center Plaza, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Dec. 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

More information: Mountain View.

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'Holiday Heist' with The Jazz Mafia

What: The Jazz Mafia sets up shop in the Bing Studio cabaret to ring in the holidays.

Where: Bing Studio, 327 Lasuen St., Stanford.

When: Dec. 10-14, times vary.

More information: Stanford Live.

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'A Chanticleer Christmas'

What: San Francisco's men's choir presents its annual holiday celebration.

Where: Memorial Church, Stanford.

When: Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.

More information: Stanford Live.

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German Holiday Market

What: German International School of Silicon Valley holds its annual German-style holiday market, featuring traditional foods and handmade crafts for sale.

Where: City Hall Plaza, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Dec. 14, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

More information: GISSV.

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'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

What: Stanford Jazz Workshop presents a tribute to Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack album to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the 1965 holiday classic.

Where: Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center, Stanford.

When: Dec. 14, 2 p.m.

More information: Stanford Tickets.

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Christmas Tree Lane

What: Since 1940, Fulton Street (off Embarcadero Road) in Palo Alto has transformed into "Christmas Tree Lane," full of lights and decorations.

When: Dec. 14-31, 5-11 p.m.

More information: Christmas Tree Lane.

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PWC Holiday Concert: 'Reinventing Love'

What: Peninsula Women's Chorus will perform holiday songs of love.

Where: St. Mark's Episcopal Church,

600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 14, 2:30 p.m.

More information: PWC.

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CSMA's merit scholar holiday concert

What: CSMA Merit Scholarship Student Ensembles perform holiday selections.

Where: Tateuchi Hall, Community School of Music and Arts. 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View.

When: Dec. 14, 5 p.m.

More information: CSMA.

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'Christmas in the Americas'

What: The California Bach Society will celebrate holiday music written by composers from North, Central and South America.

Where: Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 14, 8 p.m.

More information: CalBach.

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'The Snow Queen'

What: Inspired by one of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, Bayer Ballet presents "The Snow Queen."

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 5 p.m.

More information: Bayer Ballet.

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Italian Christmas market

What: Mitchell Park Community Center will host "Bay Area's Natale," an Italian Christmas market.

Where: Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More information: Bay Area Natale.

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Holiday organ recital: Robert Huw Morgan

What: Stanford University organist Dr. Robert Huw Morgan will present his annual holiday recital.

Where: Memorial Church, 450 Serra St., Stanford.

When: Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m.

More information: Stanford Music.

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'PACO Holiday Extravaganza'

What: The Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra will be joined by special guests Squid, Inc. Quartet and dancers from Pacific Ballet Academy for its annual holiday performance.

Where: Haymarket Theatre, Palo Alto High School, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 15, 3 p.m.

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Silicon Valley Boychoir: 'Let It Snow!'

What: Silicon Valley Boychoir presents a concert celebrating snow and the holiday season.

Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 3149 Waverley St., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 15, 3:30 p.m.

More information: SVBC.

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Gryphon Carolers

What: The long running Gryphon Carolers and band will perform their annual concert of holiday songs from around the world, including unique arrangements and originals.

Where: Woodside Village Church, 3154 Woodside Road, Woodside.

When: Dec. 15, 6:30 p.m.

More information: Gryphon Carolers.

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'Messiah Sing'

What: Schola Cantorum's annual singalong (age 12 and up) of Handel's "Messiah" will be presented with Sinfonia Schola Cantorum.

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m.

More information: MVCPA.

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Bel Canto Flutes

What: Bel Canto Flutes will be presenting a flute concert of holiday music.

Where: Mountain View Library, 585 Franklin St.

When: Dec. 19, 7 p.m.

More information: MV Library.

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'Tomáseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas'

What: 'A Celtic Christmas' is a recreation of a night before Christmas in a small farm house in the West of Ireland.

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m.

More information: MVCPA.

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Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

What: The OIGC will perform a concert of gospel and spiritual music holiday music.

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

When: Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.

More information: MVCPA.

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Winter Solstice at Hidden Villa

What: Hidden Villa's all-ages celebration of the winter solstice will include an outdoor play, crafts, refreshments, solstice stories from around the world and singing.

Where: 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills.

When: Dec. 21, 1-3:30 p.m.

More information: Hidden Villa.

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Big Band Christmas: 'All the Classics'

What: Gary Vecchiarelli Productions-Las Vegas presents a 17-Piece Big Band featuring hits from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.

When: Dec. 21, 2 and 7 p.m.

More information: MVCPA.

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'Winter Wonderland'

What: Ragazzi Continuo presents a concert of songs inspired by winter weather.

Where: St. Ann Chapel, 541 Melville Ave., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

More information: Ragazzi Continuo. The group will also perform at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Redwood City on Dec. 15.

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'Winter's Gifts: Spirit'

What: The Choral Project and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra present their annual "Winter's Gifts" concert, alongside San José Chamber Orchestra, with a theme of "Spirit."

Where: First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, 625 Hamilton Ave.

When: Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

More information: Choral Project.

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'From Pole to Pole: Christmas in the Three Americas'

What: San Francisco Choral Artists will offer musical traditions from South, Central and North America.

Where: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 21, 8 p.m.

More information: SFCA.

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Bethlehem A.D.

What: Bethlehem A.D. is a free, family-friendly experience recreating the town of Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas, including live animals and a large cast of costumed, community-volunteer actors.

Where: 1305 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

When: Dec. 21-23, 6-9:30 p.m.

More information: Bethlehem AD.

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'Robot Chanukah'

What: Chabad Palo Alto sponsors an "interactive Chanukah robot show" and immersive VR experience, plus a buffet dinner and doughnuts.

Where: Mitchell Park Community Center,

3800 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 22, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

More information: Chabad Palo Alto.

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'It's a Wonderful Life'

What: The annual screening of Frank Capra's holiday movie masterpiece, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Where: Stanford Theatre, 221 University Ave., Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 24, 4 and 9 p.m.

More information: Stanford Theatre.

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Menorah Lighting at City Hall

What: A Hanukkah celebration in front of Palo Alto's City Hall, sponsored by Chabad Palo Alto.

Where: Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

When: Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m.

More information: Chabad Palo Alto.

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Hanukkah Celebration at Stanford Shopping Center

What: The Oshman Family JCC hosts a free family Hanukkah celebration with a musical performance by Noa Levy and her band, who will lead dancing both in English and Hebrew, arts and crafts, dreidel games and a candle-lighting ceremony.

Where: Stanford Shopping Center, The Plaza (near Neiman Marcus), Palo Alto.

When: Dec. 29, 5-6 p.m.

More information: JCC.

Editor's note: This article incorrectly listed the location for the PACO Holiday Extravaganza. It should be at Haymarket Theatre at Palo Alto High School. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

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