By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Jaded New Yorkers tend to find the holidays downright depressing or, worse yet, just plain schmaltzy. Sure, the Christmas Spectacular can be a goof, but attending it more than once in a lifetime should be made a violation of city code. And since plenty of others feel the same, there's a growing movement to make the season a time of subver-sive, sincere fun. Check it out.
The days turn depressingly dark. Christmas lights offer paltry help. Times Square remains lit but no less an eyesore. Do not despair, victim of SAD (seasonal affective disorder)! Look to the east. The western Queens waterfront competes with Manhattan's skyline as Socrates Sculpture Park sheds its Winter Lightsupon early winter nights. Leo Villareal inaugurates this annual series with Star, a pinwheel-like sculpture that's 18 feet in diameter with 24 illuminated spokes pulsing in patterns to resemble fireworks, swirling flowers, or whatever your inner child fancies. Shake away the blues with the light therapy in this bright idea. JANET KIM
"A Brief but Startling History of the Chocolate Santa Claus" by Robert Sietsema
"Season's Spirits: Bars With Cheer"
"Merry Mayem: Holiday Events"
Everyone's favorite lesbian loudmouth, Lea DeLaria, has been garnering as much attention these days for her jazz vocals as for her thundering wisecracks. No surprise that she can belt with the best of thembut she's also a canny interpreter of lyrics, wringing unexpected (and often hilarious) emotion out of throwaway lines. If anyone can find something surprising in Christmas carols, she certainly can. Featuring songs from her aptly named new album, Double Standards, her holiday cabaret act, Virgin Mary, Make Mine a Double, promises to make this the gayest Noel of all. CHARLES MCNULTY
We all know Christmas is as much about presents, Santa, and eggnog as it is about music and adorable outfits, so what better way to celebrate than with this combination of Mexican wrestling-masked surf band Los Straightjackets and burlesque cuties the World Famous Pontani Sisters in their latest pageant? Armed with huge smiles and infinite enthusiasm, they'll get you in the holiday spirit as they high-step in Christmas tree headdresses or fan dance to "Marshmallow World" and other classics. With their sexy retro ensembles, kitschy attitude, and dazzling choreography, these bubbly babes can give the Rockettes a run for their money any day. RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL
December 5, Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212.219.3006
Former band geeks, unite: The 30th anniversary of Tubachristmas is fast approachingso dust off that old piece of brass and haul it to Rockefeller Center for a holiday gathering where hundreds of tubas (and a euphonium or two) form a huge, on-the-spot brass band. Organized in 1974, Tubachristmas first brought tubists together in memory of music teacher and tuba player William J. Bell, and it has since spread across the globe. Tuba enthusiasts who might not be as musically apt can catch the free late-afternoon show on the ice rinkbecause isn't being able to say "I celebrated the holidays listening to hundreds of tubas" worth it on its own? MAURA JOHNSTON
December 7, rehearsal at 11 a.m., Rockefeller Center Loading/Delivery Area, 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues; concert at 3:30, Rockefeller Center Ice Rink, 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, 212.632.3975.
In time for the holidays and Times Square's 100th birthday, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus unleashes its latest geek offspring, High Heels & Red Noses, at the Free Museum of Times Square. Kinko the Clown discovers a mysterious high-heeled shoe in a trash heap, and in his search for its owner, he finds femmes fatales, clown cronies, miraculous variety performers, and everything else a clown could want under the Christmas tree. Admission to the museum is free, but to get your bindle stiff, you'll need $20 for High Heels. RYAN HENRIQUEZ
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, beginning December 12, Free Museum of Time Square, 125 West 42nd Street, 877.BINDLES
Rude displays of bah humbug aren't just witnessed at Macy's on Christmas Eve, they're also what you'll find if you attend Jackie Beat's drag show Blew Christmas(December 17 through 21, Fez). If you too get nauseous with all the be-nice-to-your-fellow-man crap, rejoice in the dazzling Ms. Beat's annual way of flippin' the seasonal bird with her renditions of "How the Bitch Stole Christmas" and "Oops . . . It's Christmas Again." The '60s maven Brini Maxwell (Martha Stewart's drag queen alter ego, who has a regular self-titled show on cable) is starring in a one-night show called A Very Brini Christmas (December 14, Fez). Get holiday planning tips through her clever advising and bring a gift for the Toys for Tots drive while you're there. 'Tis the season for giving, so just think to yourself, "What would Brini do?" The freakier side of holiday cheer, drag-style, comes compliments of cracked-out showgirls Chris Tanner and Brandon Olsen in their Hard Candy Christmas: Crashing Through the Snow (December 7 through 21, Fez). Other outrageous phenoms to join their ranks are Lance Cruce, Robert Appleton, Flawless Sabrina, and Armin Ra. Maybe there's reason to be chipper after all! KEISHA FRANKLIN
Fez, 380 Lafayette Street, 212.533.2680
You're broke (again!), you're single (again!), you have coal in your stocking (again!) . . . If your sense of humor is wearing thin this season, Beth Lapides's Secret Santas can help. The Emmy Award-winning writing team of Sex and the City along with writers from The Onion, The Daily Show, and SNL will read personal horror stories about family, dating, and other embarrassing topics for a two-night holiday edition of Lapides's un-cabaret "Say the Word" comedy series. After all, there's nothing merrier than laughing at other people's pain. ANGELA ASHMAN