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Nontraditional Holiday Guide Lead

Andjela Padejski

Updated: The Buttcracker, snow globes and even more nontraditional holiday things to do

If the thought of watching another sugar plum fairy glide across the stage doesn’t give you a warm-and-fuzzy holiday feeling, don’t worry: You have options.

Whether it’s a Christmas tale told by drag queens or running a charitable 5K surrounded by Santas, there are lots of unique ways to enjoy the holidays, whether you want to bring along the kids or see something more suited for adults only.

WBEZ did some digging. We compiled a list of musicals, game nights, classes, charity events and fairs that offer at least a modicum of holiday cheer but also promise a unique twist.

See something we missed? Tag us on social media #HolidayFun or drop us a line at Your suggestions could be included in a reader suggestion roundup in our weekly Rundown newsletter.

The Buttcracker

The Buttcracker runs through Dec. 31 at Greenhouse Theater.

Photo by Peter Serocki

Newly added: Master the art of hand-lettering

For those who want to try their hand at calligraphy, Scratch Goods will be hosting a Cocoa and Calligraphy workshop. Grab some cocoa and a pen and learn how to use hand lettering to create personalized gifts and crafts.

The workshop will be held Dec. 11 at Scratch Goods in the West Loop (847 W. Randolph St., Chicago). Tickets are $30.

Immerse yourself in multicultural celebrations

Wonderful World: A Multicultural Holiday Celebration provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate multiple holidays and cultures this season. The Dec. 17 event at the Merit School of Music will feature music and songs that celebrate holidays like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and more. Entry is free with an RSVP.

Dec. 17 at the Merit School of Music (38 South Peoria St., Chicago) .

Create a gorgeous holiday centerpiece

The Ikebana Holiday Workshop is a great opportunity to explore the art of traditional Japanese flower arranging. Participants will be creating a centerpiece that can adorn any holiday table or be given as a gift. Hosted by the Japanese American Service Committee on Dec. 13, renowned instructor Yuko Inoue Darcy of the Ohara School of Ikebana will lead the workshop.

Dec. 13 at the Japanese American Services Committee (4427 N. Clark St., Chicago). Tickets are $60 for committee members, $65 for nonmembers.

Shop for a cause

If singing and dancing isn’t your type of holiday fun, the annual Renegade Craft Fair at Morgan Manufacturing in the West Loop offers a bevy of abstract, impressionist and contemporary modern artists selling art and crafts. Find unique artisan crafts like handmade jewelry, tapestries and sculptures that make great gifts — or might just be something you purchase for yourself.

Dec. 17-18 at Morgan Manufacturing (401 N. Morgan St., Chicago). Suggested entry donation of $12 goes to The Nature Conservancy.

Too Hot to Handel

Soloist Rodrick Dixon with the choir of Too Hot to Handel

Photo by Kristie Khans / Courtesy of the Auditorium Theatre

Create a spirited cocktail

Learn how to make the perfect holiday cocktail at the Holiday Cocktail Mixology Class at the contemporary Loop restaurant The Albert. Expert mixologists will teach you how to craft a cocktail that will have all of your guests feeling full of holiday spirit. The theme of this year’s class: Italian-inspired drinks that “blend spices with spirits.”

Dec. 22 at The Albert (228 E. Ontario St., Chicago). Tickets are $40.

The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show.

BenDeLaCreme (left) and Jinkx Monsoon

Photo by Wayne Bund

Have a gay yuletide

Two legendary Queens from RuPauls’s Drag Race — Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme — will join forces for the holiday spectacular The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show.The show is only one night, Dec. 7, and will feature the pair in witty and clever comedic and musical takes on everything from family to holiday gift ideas — because sometimes all a girl really wants for Christmas is spiked alcohol and eyebrow glue.

Dec. 7 at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago). Tickets start at $47; discounts for students and seniors.

Spring for a ‘hallucinogenic’ Nutcracker

Take a “hallucinogenic trip” with Clara and her Buttcracker to the Land of Sweets where they battle rats, celebrate body and sex positivity, and enjoy Chicago’s nightlife. The Buttcracker: A Nutcracker Burlesque is a twist on a classic that takes audiences through the world of burlesque, boylesque, magic, sword balancing, circus, dance and more.

Running the entire month of December at the Greenhouse Theater in Lincoln Park, each week features “the best of Chicago’s nightlife entertainment,” said James Juliano, the head of media relations for Greenhouse Theater Center. Performers will take on the roles of “Tea,” “Coffee,” “Chocolate,” “Vodka” and “Mother Ginger.” Audiences can also expect sword swallowing, belly dancing, classic burlesque and more.

Dec. 1-31st at the Greenhouse Theatre (2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago). Tickets begin at $30 online; a limited number of $20 standing room tickets will be sold at the door.

Explore holiday taboos

Iconic, unconventional and sometimes controversial, filmmaker John Waters offers audiences his take on Christmas in this one-man show where Waters shares his real, raw and unfiltered thoughts on all things Christmas and holiday. A John Waters Christmas, staged at Avondale Music Hall, promises to be unlike any other holiday show you’ve seen.

Dec. 13 at Avondale Music Hall (3336 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago). Tickets start at $47.50.

See a visual winter wonderland

New this year, the Chicago Architecture Center’s City In A Snow Globe will include five individual scale models of winter scenes that visitors can view in the center’s Skyscraper Gallery in The Loop. The visual fun will continue on the first floor, where more than two dozen snow globes from local designers will be on display. The theme of the event: “embracing Chicago winters.”

“Chicago is so great about celebrating and making use of our public spaces, especially in the summer. But what would happen if we embraced them in the winter as well?” asked Eve Fineman, director of exhibitions and show curator. “We looked to the design community to create concepts for the lakefront that could keep it alive and vibrant through the colder months.” The results, she said, are fantastical and thought-provoking.

Through Feb.17 at the Chicago Architecture Center’s Skyscraper Gallery (111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago). Exhibit admission is free with general admission to CAC. General admission for adults is $14, student (with ID) is $10, and children ages 5 and younger are free.

A Very Electric Christmas

A Very Electric Christmas is taking its electroluminescent show on a national tour with a stop in the Chicago suburbs on Dec. 2.

Courtesy of Lightwire Theater

Take a glow-in-the-dark-adventure

Electroluminescent lights make this Christmas story bright as it follows the adventures of a young bird named Max and his family. A Very Electric Christmas is a unique take on a classic Christmas story, using neon lights to help guide Max along his adventures. Produced by the New Orleans-based Lightwire Theater, “A Very Electric Christmas” will stop in Waukegan on its national tour Dec. 2.

“What makes this performance special is that it is a glow-in-the-dark experience. It’s a unique story with a unique medium,” said Eleanor Carney, creator and executive director of Lightwire. “The story is really about a baby bird trying to get to his parents. That strikes a chord in a lot of people who just want to be home with family and friends for the holidays.”

Dec. 2 for one night only at Genesee Theater (203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan). Tickets start at $26.

Craving good old-fashioned holiday cheer? We got you. 1. Enjoy a meal at the Great Tree Buffet in Macy’s Walnut Room — a Chicago tradition since 1905. The holiday menu is available through Jan. 7, 2023, at Macy’s (111 N. State St., Chicago). Reservations encouraged.

2. The Joffrey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker takes a classic tale and turns into stunning choreography. The show runs Dec. 3-27; tickets start at $35. At the Lyric Opera House (20 North Wacker Drive, Chicago).

3. Take a urban sleigh ride aboard the CTA Holiday Train. Through Dec.19 on multiple bus and train lines.

4. The Goodman Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol is timeless and something the entire family can enjoy. Through Dec. 31 in Goodman’s Albert Theatre (170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago). Tickets start at $25.

5. The downtown Christkindlmarket runs through Dec. 24 and opens at 11 a.m. daily. It closes at 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursdays and at 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

6. Get your fill of traditional Hanukkah sufganiyot at Dreidels and Donuts hosted by the Park District of Highland Park on Dec. 12. This event will feature food and fellowship for those over the age of 3, and will also highlight crafts by local artisans. Registration starts at $15.

Savor sounds of Motown Legends

It’s rare to be able to catch live performances by Motown legends like The Temptations, The Miracles and The Contours, but this holiday season you can do just that at A Motown Christmas. Catch the magical vocal stylings from Motown Legends as they belt out some favorite holiday songs. “You will get to see the famous Motown choreography and unforgettable harmonies,” said Wade Walsh, executive director of Rialto Square Theatre.

Dec. 9 at Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet (102 N. Chicago St.). Tickets start at $44.

Break out in song

This rendition of Handel’s Messiah promises to bring you a reinvented take on a classic. Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah features a chamber orchestra, a dynamic choir and stunning solo performances by Alfreda Burke, Karen-Marie Richardson and Rodrick Dixon.

The signature program always makes a festive start for the season, but this year, it offers a new twist, said Rich Regan, the CEO of Auditorium Theatre. “We’re inviting audience members to share their ‘Hallelujah Moments’ — personal expressions of joy, gratitude or perseverance — and we’ll be showcasing them throughout the program in a special way.”

Dec. 3-4 at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago). Tickets start at $35; discounts for students and seniors.

Find a chance to do good

While a 5K may be a bit challenging, doing it with some Holiday cheer may be the boost you need to sprint across the finish line. The Santa Hustle Chicago 5K returns to Soldier Field Dec. 3, to help raise funds for the research of pediatric cancer. It’s also a fun opportunity for families to jog alongside Santa. Plus, said race founder Aaron Del Mar, “the holiday season is the perfect time to give back to your community.” The Santa Hustle Chicago’s participant fees are $49.99 for adults and $10 for kids ages 2-10. Each participant is subject to $1 additional registration fee. To register, click here.

On Dec. 4, the Holiday Craft Bazaar to Support Chicagoland Animal Organizations will offer crafts, charity and a chance to cuddle animals. Held at Park Tavern in the Near West Side, the event will also feature picture taking with Santa and a special food and beverage menu. Dec. 4 at Park Tavern (1645 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago). Free.


Experience sounds from around the world

Two upcoming concerts with world music vibes offer a more international take on the holidays. On Dec. 9-11, immerse yourself in music by composers from Old and New Spain at The Newberry Consort’s A Mexican Christmas. The show will travel to three area venues and feature an ensemble directed by Ellen Hargis presenting folk-based songs of celebration and traditional rhythms.

“I am excited about how family-friendly this program is. I first had the opportunity to participate in it last year as a trombone player, and the festive nature of the villancico band paired with the beautiful sound of the women’s choir makes it interesting, inviting and accessible,” said Liza Malamut, artistic director at The Newberry Consort.

Tickets for A Mexican Christmas are $25 for those without a subscription. The show travels Dec. 9 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Dec. 10, at St. Alphonsus Church in Lake View, and Dec. 11 at Mother of Americas Catholic Church in Little Village.

At the Old Town School of Folk Music on Dec. 16-17, the Mariachi Herencia de Mexico will bring Mexican holiday cheer at A Very Merry Christmas Concert. The Latin Grammy-nominated group will put a mariachi twist on classic holiday songs. Mariachi Herencia de Mexico’s A Very Merry Christmas Concert is at Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall (4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago) with $35 general admission tickets, and $33 for members.

Play some holiday trivia

Sometimes a good game night is all you need. The Big Gay Holiday Gayme Show on Dec. 13 will offer a night of food, fun and games with a festive holiday theme. Entry is free. Dec. 13 at the Meeting House Tavern, 5025 N. Clark St.

Have a suggestion for non-traditional holiday fun that you’d like to share? Tag us on social media #HolidayFun or drop us a line at Your suggestions could be included in a reader suggestion roundup in our weekly Rundown newsletter.

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