Merry Mayhem

December 12 and 13, Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212.219.3006

Not many have made it into the Christmas carol canon since the flurry of postwar secular Santa songs. Composer Phil Kline might have, though, at least for the downtown set. His Unsilent Night, a tape collage for an unlimited number of boomboxes, offers New Yorkers tradition and a chance for benign provocation in the name of holiday spirit. To join, meet at 6:45 on December 13 at the Washington Square Park Arch, where Kline will load your B-box with a tape. At "Go!," your box joins hundreds to make a shimmering cloud of sound. Then, you drift to Tompkins Square, charming or at least bemusing passersby. How could Burl Ives beat that? DAPHNE CARR

Three Cheers: The Pontani Sisters melt the ice at Kate Wollman Rink in Prospect Park.
photo: Kate Lacey
Three Cheers: The Pontani Sisters melt the ice at Kate Wollman Rink in Prospect Park.


Holiday Preview

"A Brief but Startling History of the Chocolate Santa Claus" by Robert Sietsema

"Season's Spirits: Bars With Cheer"

"No-Sweat Gift Guide"

"Merry Mayem: Holiday Events"

December 13, Washington Square Park Arch, Fifth Avenue and Waverly Street

Peace on earth, good will toward all—and by "all" we mean, of course, individuals of every race, creed, feather type, scale texture, and shade of fur. The Bronx Zoo extends its hours into the evening for the holidays and gussies up its grounds with over 140 brightly colored, animal-shaped light sculptures and 10-plus miles of decorated trees and buildings. There will also be nighttime sea lion feedings, holiday storytelling, and featured meet 'n' greets with resident reindeer and camels—though, alas, if you're looking for three wise men, you'll have to find them on you own. PAMELA GROSSMAN

Weekend nights from December 14, then nightly through January 4, Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Boulevard, the Bronx, 718.220.5100

Revel in the pagan origins of Christmas at Paul Winter's 24th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration, whose grandiose seasonal theatrics involve rolling a giant replica of the earth along the length of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and levitating the world's largest "sun" gong to the cathedral's vaults, accompanist and all. Down at the altar, a "tree" of reflective metal, adorned with percussive instruments, spins on a turntable, and the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, in complete Russian folk garb, belts out African choral numbers. With its ambulatory performers, floating enormous gongs, and medieval Russian fanfare, the event is said to have a "Pink Floyd quality" to it. At one point the 2,800 audience members are even encouraged to howl like wolves—a guaranteed antidote to seasonal stress. LORI COLE

December 18, 19, and 20, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, 212.581.1212

The organizers of Santacon are a shadowy bunch, preferring to lie in wait until after their annual event has blizzarded through town. What is known is this: That troop of Santas you saw, heard, and experienced traipsing around New York City last December was not an illusion, and it had little to do with the Salvation Army. It was, instead, the New York edition of this "not-for-profit, nonpolitical, non-religious demented Santa Claus convention"—part pub crawl, part extended wassailing jaunt, part absurdist way to bring joy to this cold, hard world. The head Kringles aren't offering much in terms of specifics about this year's revelry, but know this: It might not be such a bad idea to have your Santa costume—and a pair of comfortable shoes—handy during the second weekend of December. You know, just in case. MAURA JOHNSTON

December, various venues,

As if being one of the founding fathers of folk weren't enough naches, good old Woody Guthrie had a hidden haimish streak. Luckily, the Klezmatics and Woody's boychick Arlo plan to bring Woody's long lost Jewish holiday songs to life. The whole megillah: Martha Graham dancer Marjorie Mazia married Woody in 1945. Her mother, Aliza Greenblatt, the Yiddish poet, lived across the street in Coney Island. Aliza, like any good machatunim, schooled Woody on the ways of Jewish culture and history. The two traded verses, and voilà: Hanukkah songs for parties at the local JCC—just like the simcha to celebrate this match. JENNIFER SNOW

December 20, Makor, 1395 Lexington Avenue, 212.601.1000

You love the holiday season; it's the "holiday" part you can't get behind. If religious sentiment of any type makes you queasy, perhaps the NYC Atheists Society Winter Solstice Dinner is your kind of celebration. The group is gathering in midtown for a hearty Chinese dinner (no grace before, during, or afterward, thanks very much), some God-free camaraderie, and a performance by Leonid Hambro, WQXR radio personality and former principal pianist with the New York Philharmonic. After the meal, a visit is planned to the top of the Empire State Building—to gaze upon perhaps not the heavens but certainly the beautiful sky. All are welcome. PAMELA GROSSMAN

December 22, Hunan, 323 Fifth Avenue, RSVP to 212.330.6794,

Manhattan might have the windows, but the boroughs rule for Christmas kitsch. Witness the gas station at the corner of Lorimer and Maujer streets,in Williamsburg, which in the post-Thanksgiving frenzy hosts a throng of underlit plastic forms, human and otherwise. A life-size manger, corps of tin soldiers, and a slew of straggling secular favorites glow beneath the harsh lights of near $2 petrol while carols blare from the station speakers. The automaton entourage is large enough to fill several of the surrounding pre-gentrification apartments, prompting cynics to wonder if there isn't a December sublet to be had from this spectacle. DAPHNE CARR

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