Maybe Kanye West wouldn’t agree, but Christmas is for everyone – even those who don’t ascribe to Christian-Catholic doctrine or religiosity. There are jolly Santas, over-dressed cocktails, shopping sprees in the cold, and way too much pine everywhere you look and touch. Which stings, actually.
Here are a handful of events, parties, gatherings and galleries that I believe make the season bright.
Macy’s Center City’s Dickens Christmas Village and the holiday light show
Remarkably, Macy’s at 13th and Market’s legendary Dickens Christmas Village – an off-the-beaten-path room filled with pint-sized puppets dressed in rag-tag clothing making merry in a holiday seasonal tableau – is still up and kicking after having been around for at least 60 years. Sure, they’ve cleaned up the cobwebs, and combed some puppet hair, but the old-world intention of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is still there – never-ever to be made modern. Cool. Plus, after you walk through the Christmas Village, you’re all but squarely set upon the lap of a live Santa. Which is fun for goofy selfies. You need a reservation at Macy’s website (which is weird) to hang in Christmas Village, but still, it’s highly recommended. The other event at Macy’s Downtown that is less claustrophobic and twice as spectacular is the gazilion-bulb-bursting light show with live organ music from the Wanamaker’s organ, sparkling LED tree, and the voice of Julie Andrews as the Christmas story’s narrator. Anyone who knows Philly knows that this holiday show goes as far back as when this 13th and Market super department store was John Wanamaker’s. One day Macy’s will close. Experience this while you can.
Mary Poppins at Quintessence Theatre
Speaking of Julie Andrews (as long as it isn’t anything to do with The Sound of Music, we’re cool), Quintessence on Germantown Avenue have taken Julian Fellowes (from Downtown Abbey)’ new script, maintained the company’s “children’s theater with an edge” thesis statement and turned Mary Poppins into a holiday story with adult characters. That means that Hanna Gaffney’s Poppins and Steve Pacek’s Bert may ingest “spoonfuls of sugar” spiked with whiskey. I like it. (Running now until December 31).
Fishtown’s Evil Genius Beer Company debuts holiday craft brew and party
Maybe, I’m too excited about another new Evil Genius locally made craft beer. Then again, the Fishtown saloon and lab is hosting a nightly “Twas an Evil Christmas” gathering of twinkling lights, decorations and a radiantly glowing gi-hugic 20 foot Christmas tree for photo opps. As for a new bone-dry Belgian brew, Evil Genius launches Santa! I Know Him! this week, a festive Saison, 7.2% ABV brewed with rose hips, chamomile, black currants and dark Belgian candi syrup. Yum.
Whole Foods Market South Street + Art Museum area annual 12 Days of Cheese
Double yum. Between December 13 and 24, Jeff Bezzo’s grocery store is lining up its cheese mongers – including World Cheese Award winners and 2022 American Cheese Society winners – and offering a 12 Days of Cheese sampler bag, with three handpicked cheeses, blackberry rosemary spread, salami and crackers will for $29.99. Prime members who also love the Video service (Freevee, not so much) get an additional 10% off the discounted price of each cheese such as Rogue Creamery Organic Oregon Blue and Cowgirl Creamery Organic MT TAM with a bloomy rind and a fudgy core. Sounds like a porn film.
The War on Drugs: A Drugcember to Remember at Johnny Brenda’s
Philly’s favorite alt-psychedelic rock band with a Grammy and a smile, The War on Drugs, had to cool their jets on their annual “Drugcember to Remember” Christmas parties (and charity for the Philly school system) during the pandemic. Now back to holiday rock-out action, expect special guests for all three of its December 19, 20, 21 shows at JBs – including a few Philly Eagles who appear with TWoD on several tracks from the new A Philly Special Christmas album. On green vinyl, yet. Go Birds. Go Drugs.
Shop and ice skate at Christmas Village and Dilworth Park in Center City
A Dick Van Dyke tripping-over-things holiday is guaranteed with Christmas Village, and its’ Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market when combined with the Dilworth Park skating rink nearby. Add in U-Ville at the nearby Uptown Beer Garden on John F Kennedy Blvd, and its even holly-er and jolly-er.
Blue Man Group at the Miller Theater
What if the all-bald Blue Man Group went green, red and gold instead of cobalt and placed pine cones on their PVC tube instruments? Would that be Christmas-y enough for you and the kids? (December 27 – December 31)
Hanging out at Shane’s Confectionary in Old City
I used to live just doors away from Philly’s oldest chocolatier, would smoke weed, then raid the olde shoppe to the tune of hundreds of dollars at a shot. Now, owned by two brothers with fun, twisty handlebar retro mustaches, Shane’s is still worth blowing a joint and cashing your check for – plus they sell steaming cups of dense hot chocolate and Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas gifts that stretch to nearly a foot called Clear Toy Candy.
Chris Davis’ One-Man Nutcracker at Theatre Exile
I don’t really go for the tradition of ballet and The Nutcracker, but Chris Davis is a humorous local performance artist, he took dance lessons just for this occasion, and he’s using both the original E.T.A. Hoffman Nutcracker story and the classic Tchaikovsky ballet as inspiration for the whimsical extravaganza. Plus, you’ll be in South Philly. Check out the neighborhood’s holiday street lights displays.