‘Tis the season: December presents a variety of joyous celebrations of the holiday spirit

The traveling show "Tomaseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas"
The traveling show “Tomaseen Foley’s A Celtic Christmas,” featuring Santa Cruz guitarist William Coulter, returns to the Rio Theater on Dec. 11.

December in Santa Cruz County is filled with holiday-themed performances and events, including a handful of performances of “The Nutcracker,” burlesque and drag and two traditional holiday parades in Santa Cruz this weekend.

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The performance/arts calendar in Santa Cruz County in the month of December is always boosted by holiday-themed events, and 2022 is no different. The season of joy and celebration will manifest in several different ways, from multiple performances of “The Nutcracker” (by several different organizations) to drag shows and adult-oriented cabarets. If you’re looking for something a bit more elevated or interesting than the annual office Christmas party, we got you covered. Here’s a selection of upcoming holiday-themed events beginning this weekend. Go easy on the eggnog and gingerbread, but find a bit of joy this holiday season:

Ongoing — The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is hosting its “Winter Wonderland” with rides, games, holiday decorations, classic holiday movie screenings, special performances and more. Saturdays and Sundays only from Dec. 3-18, then beginning on Dec. 19, it’s every day through New Year’s Day, noon to 5 p.m.

Thursday — The Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz is certainly not going to be left out of the fun of the holidays. The Ukers will be holding three holiday singalong events in December, beginning Thursday, which includes what they’re calling “Xmas Twisted Oldies,” such as “Reindeers on the Rise” to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” You can participate or just listen, with a ukulele or without. Thursday, at 5:45 to 7:15 p.m. at Pono Hawaiian Grill, 120 Union St., Santa Cruz.

Friday and Saturday — The Santa Cruz County Fair’s Holiday Lights display will be open weekends all month through Christmas Day — for cars. But on this weekend, the event is transformed into a walk-through event, combined with a holiday craft andgift fair, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. After that, Holiday Lights is a drive-through event open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, beginning at 5:30 each night.

Friday-Sunday — The Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, under the direction of Cheryl Anderson, will perform for the 39th year “Music for the Feast of Christmas,” featuring Johann Kuhnau’s “Magnificat,” alongside the Monterey Ensemble Orchestra. There will be three performances at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Saturday — Pacific Avenue is the place for the annual downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade, from 10 a.m. to noon. Unconfirmed rumors are that Santa might be attending.

Saturday — It’s a revered Santa Cruz tradition, the annual Lighted Boat Parade at the Santa Cruz Harbor. It features many decorated boats cruising the yacht harbor at sundown for the enjoyment of anyone able to get there and find parking. The boats will begin their parade at around 5:30 p.m. Pro tip: Find a spot near Arana Gulch and take the walking paths to the harbor.

The holidays in Santa Cruz means, among other things, the annual Lighted Boat Parade at the Santa Cruz Harbor.

Sunday — For something a little less sanctified, the burlesque/drag show Tasty Teaze gets into the holiday spirit with its “Naughty or Nice” show at Greater Purpose Brewing Company in Live Oak. Showtime is 1:30 p.m.

Sunday — NextStage Productions presents a bit of holiday theater with “Winter Wonder,” a musical production to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank at Mid-County Senior Center in Capitola. The show begins at 2 p.m.

Dec. 9-10 — This one’s a little far afield, but many of the great historical sites in Monterey will be open for “Christmas in the Adobes,” a nighttime tour of 15 historical adobes in downtown Monterey with staff dressed in period costumes, live music and entertainment, on consecutive nights, beginning at 5 p.m.

Dec. 9-10 — The Cabrillo College chamber group Cantiamo! is presenting a small-scale and intimate version of Handel’s timeless “Messiah” at two different but equally sacred venues. If you want to take the trip, on Dec. 9, the group will perform at Carmel Mission Basilica at 8 p.m. On Dec. 10, the performance comes closer to home at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz.

Dec. 10-11 — The Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre is preparing its 20th anniversary performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, with a live orchestra and a performance company that includes SCBT alumna Melody Mennite, principal dancer at the Houston Ballet. SCBT will present four performances at the Civic, 1 and 4:30 p.m. each day, Dec. 10 and 11.

Dec. 10 — The Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz reconvenes for its “Xmas Twisted Oldies,” such as “Hey, Mr. St. Nick” to the tune of the Byrds’ “Hey Mr. Spaceman,” at the Grant Street Neighborhood Holiday Party, 150 Grant St., Santa Cruz, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Dec. 11 — For so many people, Christmas is an opportunity to reengage with the rich music and culture of the Celtic tradition. Santa Cruz is a longtime stop on the annual tour of “Tomaseen Foley’s A Celtic Christmas.” The spirited and joyful celebration features storyteller Tomaseen Foley and dancer and musician collaborators re-creating an enchanting Christmas Eve. The lon-time musical director of the nationally touring company is Santa Cruz-based guitarist William Coulter. Just as it’s done in recent years, “A Celtic Christmas” alights at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, this time on a Sunday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m.

Dec. 14-17 — Motion Pacific in Santa Cruz is launching a multidate fundraiser called Stockings Holiday Cabaret, a 21-and-over show of dance and debauchery from many of the community’s most accomplished dancers, 8 p.m. for four consecutive nights at Motion Pacific’s downtown studio at 131 Front St., Santa Cruz.

Dec. 16 — Temple Beth El in Aptos will host the annual mystical, magical and always musical “Chanukah Rock of Ages” services, at 7 p.m. open to all at TBE, 3055 Porter Gulch Road in Aptos.

Dec. 17-18 — As it does each December, the Santa Cruz Chorale will be gathering at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz for back-to-back performances of its “Christmas With the Chorale” concert. The chorale is joined by the Monterey Bay Sinfonietta to perform carols from around the world, including the Ukrainian “Carol of the Bells,” along with several other holiday-related choral pieces from Vaughn Williams, Vicente Lusitano and others. Saturday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m.

Conductor Christian Grube l
Conductor Christian Grube leads the Santa Cruz Chorale into Holy Cross Church for its annual Christmas concert Dec. 17 and 18.

Dec. 17-18 — The Santa Cruz City Ballet at the International Academy of Dance presents the beloved ballet “The Nutcracker” with four performances Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18, 1 and 4:30 p.m. both days at the Crocker Theater on the campus of Cabrillo College.

Dec. 18 — Temple Beth El gathers friends and families for a Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony at the town clock in downtown Santa Cruz, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Dec. 18 — The Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz opens its doors for a free holiday celebration from Hope Church in Scotts Valley and Soquel and The Coastlands Church in Aptos. The event begins at 11 a.m.

Dec. 20 — The Agape Dance Academy, with studios in Aptos and Scotts Valley, will present its “Petite Nutcracker,” featuring dancers from ages 3 to 7, at the Crocker Theater at Cabrillo College. Showtime is 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 21 — The Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz strikes again with its mobile “Xmas Twisted Oldies,” this one at Greater Purpose Brewing in Live Oak, 5:45 to 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 21-22 — The Agape Dance Company follows up its “Petite” show with its traditional performance of “The Nutcracker” for four performances at the Crocker Theater, 2:30 and 6:30 p.m.

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