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Top holiday arts events and performances in San Diego

Courtesy of San Diego Botanic Garden
The fire garden installation at "Lightscapes" is shown in an undated photo. "Lightscapes" will be on view at San Diego Botanic Garden through Jan. 1, 2023.

Yiddishland California: 'Chanukkah-themed Art Walk'

Visual art

Yiddishland California just opened a year ago as a cultural center and hub for Jewish and Yiddish arts and culture — it's in the heart of La Jolla, run by Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North America (YAAANA).

They're having a Hanukkah-themed event on the First Friday Art Walk, with a market of Judaica — Jewish ceremonial art and objects used in rituals and traditions.

The art walk also marks the opening of an exhibition by painter Miriam Libhaber. Libhaber was born in Mexico City and has a background studying architecture which still influences her work, not just in her urban landscapes, but even the way she paints forests evokes clusters of skyscrapers.

It's part of La Jolla's First Friday Art Walk, so there'll be plenty to see throughout the village area. Hanukkah this year begins on December 18th through December 26th.

Details: 4-7 p.m. Friday Dec. 2, 2022. Yiddishland, 1128 Wall St., La Jolla. Free.

A Step Beyond: 'El Alebrije'


"El Alebrije" is a reimagining of the Nutcracker ballet, inspired by the culture of Mexico. In pre-Hispanic Mexican culture an Alebrije is a spirit guide, and the term is also used for carved and painted animal figurines, as well as a sense of imaginary or make-believe — which tracks as a spin on the nutcracker dolls.

Courtesy of A Step Beyond
Dancers from A Step Beyond are shown in the 2021 production of "El Alebrije."

This is an outdoor show at Kit Carson Amphitheater in Escondido, with just one performance. There's a huge cast, including 150 students from A Step Beyond's ballet school. The story, the costumes and props are transformed into the Mexican tradition, but the music is the same Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker Suite."

Details: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Kit Carson Amphitheater, 100 Amphitheater Dr., Escondido. General admission is $10, children under 5 are free.

'Nutcracker' Tea Parties: San Diego Ballet and Scripps Performing Arts Academy


If you want to go all out for the quintessential "Nutcracker" experience with a tea party, Scripps Performing Arts Academy will host their Holiday Tea and Holiday Brunch "Nutcracker" performances at the Fairmont Grand in Del Mar. The tea is Friday, Dec. 23 ($88+), and the brunch is Saturday, Dec. 24 ($100+).

The San Diego Ballet will also hold a Nutcracker Tea Party in Liberty Station on Sunday, Dec. 18 ($55+).

Courtesy of the artist
Conductor Christopher Dragon will lead the San Diego Symphony for "Noel Noel" Dec. 9-11, 2022.

San Diego Symphony: 'Noel Noel'

Music, Storytelling

"Noel Noel" is a mixture of narrated and performed storytelling and holiday music. It's a new story and script this year, so if you've attended in the past, this will feel new. It's conducted by Christopher Dragon (Wyoming Symphony), and the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Master Chorale and the San Diego Children's Choir will perform.

Details: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, 222 Marina Park Way, downtown. General admission is $20+.

San Diego Gay Men's Chorus: 'Jingle'


"Jingle" is the annual holiday show from the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus (San Diego Gay Man's Chorus), and it's also the kick off to their 38th season, now with their new artistic director Dr. Charles Beale. The event celebrates how integral music — particularly song — is to how we commemorate the holidays. The SDGMC be performing some holiday classics along with music from Eric Whitacre, The Temptations, James Taylor and more.

Details: 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 3 p.m. Dec. 11, 2022. Balboa Theatre, 868 4th Ave., downtown. General admission is $30+.

Cygnet Theatre: 'A Christmas Carol'


This production of the Charles Dickens classic has original music and puppetry, as well as everything we know and love about this story. Artistic director Sean Murray will perform Scrooge. Murray notably performed every character in "A Christmas Carol" for a streaming, one-actor adaptation of the play during the pandemic.

Ken Jacques / Cygnet Theater
A prior production of "A Christmas Carol" at Cygnet Theater is shown in a 2019 photo.

You can find shows at Cygnet's Old Town theater nearly every day through Christmas Eve, including some with American Sign Language interpreters.

Details: Through Dec. 24, 2022. Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town. General Admission is $30+

San Diego Botanic Garden: 'Lightscape'

Visual art

"Lightscape" is an immersive installation along a one-mile trail inside the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, featuring over a million lights. There are light tunnels, pyrotechnics, sculptures and visual art activations along the way. There's timed entry tickets available on evenings through January 1st, and they recommend about an hour and a half.

Winter Cathedral.jpg
Courtesy of San Diego Botanic Garden
The "Winter Cathedral" installation at "Lightscapes" is shown in an undated photo. The light show runs at San Diego Botanic Garden through Jan. 1, 2023.

The trail has some dirt and hilly sections, so comfortable shoes are recommended. Strollers and wheelchairs are permitted, though some sections with steps will require a detour and/or assistance from staff.

Details: 5-8:30 p.m. Nov. 18-20, 23, 25-27; Dec. 1-4, 8-11, 14-23, 26-31; Jan. 1. San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas. Admission is $13-$29.

La Jolla Music Society: Holiday Sing-Along

Music, Books, Crafts

The La Jolla Music Society's "Holiday Sing-Along" features the Pacific Coast Harmony choir, plus a La Jolla librarian for a reading of "'T'was the Night Before Christmas."

Also, artists from the Spanish Village Art Center will lead families in making their own pop-up holiday cards. This is a free event, held in the outdoor courtyard, and you can bring a book to donate to the Friends of the La Jolla Library.

Details: 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Wu Tsai QRT.yrd at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. Admission is free.

Art Produce: 'Craft Works Holiday Market'

Visual arts, Shopping

There are so many gift markets, but don't miss the Craft Works Holiday Market at Art Produce. The market is open every weekend through the end of the year, and is stocked with handmade goods courtesy of the faculty, students and friends of San Diego City College's arts program, including jewelry, candles, soaps, ceramics, textiles, artworks. It takes up the entire front gallery at Art Produce in North Park, and 70% of each purchase goes directly to the artist and the rest supports Art Produce, which is a nonprofit.

Details: 2-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday; noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 30, 2022. Art Produce, 3139 University Ave., North Park. Admission is free.

For more winter holiday events, visit our special holiday calendar listings. For more arts events and editor's picks, check out the KPBS/Arts Calendar.

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