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Dozen days of awesome holiday arts

Holiday alternatives to Santa's lap, chain stores and stuffed Chinese-made Garfield dolls

COOL YULE: The Seattle Men's Chorus' holiday show is long on vibrato. Press photo

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Sometimes we have trouble knowing how to take the holidays. It's tempting to just sink into a vat of gravy and football games and fruitcake and mulled whatever and giftwrapping and champagne and marinate in the shiny, happy version of the celebration. And sometimes, it's hard not to want say eff that to all the happy and the merry and the auld lang syne, to brood on how the candlelit cheer of season often doesn't extend far beyond the comfier hearths.

The Weekly Volcano turns to the arts when we need a little 1955 and sugar plums - to pull us out of our crotchety ways.

The South Sound is full of holiday artsy goodness - festivals, stage productions, art shows and special events out the wazoo fa la la la la. The arts are everywhere, draped with tinsel, wrapped in a bow with a pesky elf on top ringing a tiny bell.

Below we present a dozen artsy ideas to brighten your holidays.

1) Sunday, Dec. 2: Ukulele Festival

Few instruments allow you to rock out at Christmas like a ukulele - no, really. The Ukulele Festival showcases jazz guitarist turned ukulele powerhouse Michael Powers, Monday Ukulele Ohana, other musicians, hula dancers and Hawaiian food. This is basically your only chance to pretend we live in a warm climate. Take it! Tickets are $5. The event starts at 11 a.m. at the Asia Pacific Culture Center, 4815 S. Tacoma Way.

2) Thursday, Dec. 6: Christmas Ship

Argosy Cruises' Christmas Ship floats by shorelines, exposing folks shivering on the shores to holiday tunes sung by choirs off the bow. Dec. 6 at 7 p.m., the Christmas Ship and the Federal Way Harmony Kings will sail into Commencement Bay. Wait for happiness on the Thea Foss Waterway behind the Museum of Glass next to a bonfire.

3) Saturday, Dec. 8: A Very Special Christmas with Brandi Carlile

She's a little bit folk and a little bit rock 'n' roll and she's coming to The Washington Center in Olympia. This unique performance will have no opening act - just Carlile singing alongside an acoustic three-piece and a cello. The show goes on at 8 p.m. Tickets are $44.

4) Saturday, Dec. 8: Duck the Malls Holiday Craft Event

You don't need a Cinnabon to have a positive shopping experience. Consider an alternative, if you will. Dec. 8, inside the Capitol Theater, Duck The Malls arts and crafts sale will be a gathering place for Olympia punks, hippies, hipsters, youngsters, oldsters, artists, Weekly Volcano-sters, crafters and folks of all kinds as an antidote to everything that's wrong with the hectic, antiseptic, fluorescent-lighted mall. This craft fair draws plenty of local artists and crafters and has been for 10 years now. The fair is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. at 206 Fifth Ave. in downtown Olympia.

5) Sunday, Dec. 9: Tacoma Art  Museum Community Festival

Tacoma Art Museum's free community festival Let It Snow brings in all kinds of art activities, shopping opportunities and shows. See the Rainier Ringers bell choir at noon, watch cute kid plays or dance troupes, make a card and try out printmaking, and check out the bonus crafts in the gift shop. The festival is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 17th and Pacific Avenue.

6) Thursday, Dec. 13: Big Band Christmas

For years, trumpeter Rich Wetzel and his big band has been popping up in local bars and restaurants, introducing folks to jazz of years gone by, as well as a few current numbers. The one constant is his big blowout holiday shows where he expands his band to 30 musicians and plays music from A Stan Kenton Christmas. This year expect more mellophones at the 7:30 p.m. show at Tacoma Community College. Tickets are $10-$15.

7) Thursday, Dec. 13: Seattle Men's Chorus

A little bit (or a lot) of Christmas camp doesn't hurt anyone. Seattle Men's Chorus is known for its fun holiday shows that mix in some comedy with choral performance and a touch of naughtiness here and there. The show opens at 8 p.m. inside the Pantages Theater, Ninth and Broadway. Tickets are $42 and $58.

8) Friday, Dec. 14: Handel's Messiah

Folks, it just wouldn't be a happy holiday without some singing about God. And for that, there's no beating Handel's Messiah, a piece for choir, orchestra and soloists that has delighted audiences worldwide for more than 250 years. As 18th century music historian Charles Burney once said, Messiah has fed the hungry and clothed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched succeeding managers of Oratories more than any single musical production in this or any other country." We're not totally sure what that means, so check it out yourself at the Charles Borromeo Church when the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra presents its version at 7:30 p.m.

9) Friday, Dec. 14: Magical Strings Celtic Yuletide Concert

Something about this time of year - it makes plaid cool. It makes bagpipes cool. Makes Magical Strings really cool. The band's annual Celtic Yuletide show reunites three generations of musicians and dancers, anchored by Philip and Pam Boulding on the Celtic harp and hammered dulcimer. Tickets are $12-$28. The return of the cool happens at 7:30 p.m. inside the Urban Grace Church, 902 Market St. in Tacoma.

10) Friday, Dec. 14-Sunday, Dec. 16: Prodigal Sun Holiday Show

Prodigal Sun Productions is a quirky, controversial and all around local theater company in downtown Olympia. Its first ever holiday show will include a short play by Tony Kushner, the Forever Young Rock & Roll Choir, storytelling spots and beyond. Tickets are offered on a sliding scale from $12-$20 and the show will be at the Midnight Sun Performance Space at 113. N. Columbia, Olympia.

11) December 15, 16, 18, 19: Christmas Revels at Rialto

Christmas Revels is a family show, a wacky combination of comedy and music, and a Rialto Theater tradition for decades. This year's show is set in a 12th-century English manor and seeks to mix in historical English song, dance, comedy, and more from the days of yore. Tickets are $14-$29. For details, go to

12) Thursday, Dec. 20: Writer's Open Mic Holiday Stories

"Works in Progress: Writer's Open Mic"turns to the holidays offering an opportunity to hear published and unpublished writers alike share five-minute holiday story snippets. If you want to give a reading, sign up by 6 p.m. If you want to listen, be at the Washington State History Museum, 19th and Pacific Avenue, by 6:30 p.m.

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