How to be jolly




OK, so admittedly this has not been such a celebratory year. This time a year ago we were stunned (most of us) by the election results and dreading the year to come. It could have been worse, but it was still pretty hard. The hurricanes and earthquakes everywhere were no help. But now, people, winter is just about here and you need to get serious about happiness. That’s what the holidays are there for. We’re gonna let you do your own choices as far as food and drink and party companionship goes, but as we are every year, we are here to help you with handy “best bet” lists in the area of music, theater, art and craft fairs, dance and holiday miscellany. As usual, we will cram more into the space by only giving dates and venues, and hosting organization if different from venue, so to get costs, or hours, or details or to buy tickets, you will need to go to the source in most cases.

Musically, there is a wide range of options this holiday season, from the very traditional to the Minnesota wild and wacky.

On Nov. 17, Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge will present “Heart Has Its Seasons”—A Grateful Dead tribute featuring the Shotgun Ragtime Band with Camile Baudoin of the Radiators. Start at to get details.

On Dec. 9 there will be a A Festive Holiday concert at Bethel University, Benson Great Hall, from the Shoreview Northern Lights Variety Band, with guests the Minnesota Boychoir and broadcasting legend Don Shelby. Before the concert there will be carriage rides. More information is available at

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus’ “Gay Holiday Spectacular” runs from Dec. 8 through the 10th, at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the U of M. Tickets available from the U of M box office online.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s presentation of Handel’s “Messiah” will include two performances at the Basilica of St. Mary, on Dec. 14 and 15. SPCO’s website has further details.

“Christmas with Cantus” comprises an intense schedule of shows between Dec. 12 and 22 throughout the greater Twin Cities. One will be Dec. 21 at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Saint Paul. See for the complete schedule and further information.

On Dec. 22, we are back with Hook and Ladder for a concert featuring The Twilight Hours with special guest Starfolk.

Finally, if you find yourself in need of dining out with very eclectic music for zero cover charge on Dec. 23, check out Wanaku at Icehouse, in Minneapolis. Wanaku is a West African polymath musician. “With a traditional/ethnic rhythm section, writing lyrics for one song in multiple languages at the same time can be challenging. Wanaku succeeds at making this look easy with lyrics that float in and out of one or more of the following languages: English, Creole, Kom, Igbo, Swahili, Twi and French.” Check out Icehouse’s website for more.

For theater, the choices are equally varied. Let’s dive right in with the Chanhassen Dinner Theater’s presentation of “Sister Act,” running Nov. 3 through Feb. 24. Details and ticket sales on their website.

The Children’s Theatre Company has once again brought back “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” running from Nov. 7 to Jan. 7. They also sell tickets on their website.

The Brave New Workshop Comedy Theater is presenting, as usual, a new original work just for the holidays. This year’s glorious title is “The Polarizing Express: Dysfunction Junction.” It opens Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 27.

The Jungle Theatre has a sort of holiday-themed play, Miss Bennett— Christmas at Pemberley. Check for details and tickets. This runs Nov. 18 through Dec. 30.

The Guthrie Theatre has two offerings, “A Christmas Carol” and something else. “A Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 14 through Dec. 30, and this is the 43rd year the Guthrie has presented it. The “something else” at the Guthrie is Noel Coward’s timeless comedy, “Blithe Spirit.” It runs Nov. 25 through Jan. 14.

As ever, the dance/ballet category is thoroughly dominated by “The Nutcracker.” Again this year there is a “Hip Hop Nutcracker” at the State Theatre. It is kind of early in the season, running just two days, Nov. 21 and 22. Tickets are sold through the Ordway online box office at

“The Classic Nutcracker” is presented by Ballet Minnesota and the performance venue is the O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul. There are four performances over three days, Dec. 15-17.

The third Nutcracker is the “Nutcracker Not-so Suite,” in its third year showing at the Cowles Center. This runs Dec. 15-30 and you can get tickets online at the Cowles Center’s own website.

Finally, not chronologically though, is something out of the ordinary, and out of town. “Cirque Holidaze” is showing at the Mystic Showroom at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Nov. 25 through Dec. 3.

Sales of arts and crafts and handmade gifts are for many the highlight of the season and a welcome inoculation against mall shopping. Several of them are happening the same weekend though, so you may want to do a tour.

A good kick-off event is Walker Community United Methodist Church’s Annual Holiday Craft Fair, happening this year on Nov. 18 and 19. They serve hot homemade soup and bread so plan to have lunch there.

On the weekend of Dec. 2 and 3, there are two craft fairs, a small but excellent one and a big rowdy one, right in the Powderhorn neighborhood. There is also a highly rated one at the Roseville City Hall, if you feel like traveling that far, which benefits the Harriet Alexander Nature Center.

The big rowdy one in Powderhorn is the No Coast Craftorama at Midtown Global Market. It’s huge!

The small, high-quality one is the hidden gem of South Minneapolis’s holiday season, Gayla Ellis’s Art and Craft Sale at her home on 10th Avenue near the park. You can find this on Facebook, or look for flyers at MayDay Cafe. That’s Dec. 2 and 3. This fair includes CDs, videos, fair trade items and clothing, and of course, Gayla’s own photography along with the usual craft fair offerings.

Gifts in the Gallery runs from Dec. 6 to 20 at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd., in Bloomington. Wonderfully unique, high quality, original handmade items for the holiday gift-giving season will be available at this lovely fair in the beautiful Bloomington Civic Plaza. It opens with a festive reception featuring music, cash bar and door prizes on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

On Dec. 8, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby of the Avalon Theatre, In the Heart of the Beast is holding an Artists’ Fair with an amazing array of stuff. HOBT is not doing a holiday show this year, so it’s even more important to support them by shopping at the artists’ fair. There will also be HOBT “swag” such as calendars and posters and T-shirts. If you come on the Friday night, it’s preview night, first dibs, a suggested $5 donation at the door.

Finally, here is a small selection of unclassifiable events and experiences and shopping finds.

Do you know about the Weatherguide Calendar? These calendars include information on meteorology, phenology, astronomy, weather, conservation and gardening, along with water facts, amazing local photography and much more! The calendars are published by Freshwater Society with promotional support from KARE11 and Minnesota Public Radio. You can buy them online, and they make great gifts. Also, the Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge is hosting a Weatherguide Photographers’ Reception on Nov. 16, along with jazz music and local food and beer. If you’re up for a drive to Stillwater, you might like the Downton Abbey Christmas Dinner being offered by the Outing Lodge at Pine Point on Dec. 16. Look for the event and buy tickets at And finally, for New Year’s Day, consider brunch at the Icehouse Mpls, where you will be entertained by Pushing Chain, a folky-tonk duo from Minnesota’s north shore. Pushing Chain features Boyd Blomberg on guitar and vocals and Adam Moe on fiddle and vocals and for this show there is no cover charge.


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