The time is upon us for ugly sweaters and egg nog, but our sporadically snow-blasted city may be convincing you to hunker down and hibernate until 2017 instead. We’re here to tell you that would be a mistake. There are plenty of reasons to venture outdoors and absorb some festive spirit. Behold, our handy list of 13 holiday events that make it worth braving the elements.
Holiday RAWk at the Roseland Theatre
December 14, Roseland Theatre
Ushering out the end of an interesting year (to put it mildly), and welcoming a new one, this holiday party celebrates diversity of ideas and forms of expression by incorporating the talents of more than 50 artists from a huge variety of backgrounds, including fashion, film, performance art, and photography. Come and rejoice in free speech and independent thought!
December 14–17, Star Theater
What goes together better than stripping, Christmas, and opera? Nothing, that’s what. Based on the life of beloved Portland stripper and author Viva Las Vegas, this one-act opera zeroes in on a stressful family visit over the holidays—because, well, Viva’s dad happens to be a midwestern preacher. Read the full story here.
The Siren Theater's Best Christmas Ever!
December 16–17, Siren Theater
The Siren’s “old-fashioned holiday variety show”—they’re channeling Donny and Marie for this one—promises singing, dancing, and comedy provided by some of the city’s funniest, among them Shelley McLendon, Loren Hoskins, Michael Fetters, and Jed Arkley.
It’s a Wonderful Life
December 17, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Sure, you could watch Jimmy Stewart discover the true meaning of life on network TV. Or you could catch the 1946 classic on the big screen, in its original black and white, soundtracked live by an orchestra. Your call.
December 17, Revolution Hall
“Santa Baby” not your bag? Bazan is here for you. On his newly released collection Dark Sacred Night, the raw-voiced Seattle troubadour—former Pedro the Lion front man and defected evangelical Christian—remixes classics like “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” into melancholy ditties, alongside a few modern tunes and originals.
Cheer the F**k Up: An OK Chorale Holiday Pop Songs Sing-Along
December 22, Mississippi Studios
The OK Chorale, a drop-in pop chorus with live musical accompaniment, invites singers of all skill levels to belt out some non-traditional faves, from Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” to Joni Mitchell’s “River,” and maybe—fingers crossed—some Wham! Drinking is encouraged.
A Civil War Christmas
Through December 23, Artists Repertory Theatre
Populated by the Lincolns, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee, Pulitzer winner Paula Vogel’s song-studded, DC-set drama travels back to Christmas Eve, 1864. The New York Times called it “a beautifully stitched tapestry of American lives.”
Through December 25, Portland International Raceway
Picture the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where they’re on the boat paddling through the chocolate river, and Gene Wilder is singing, with some pretty disturbing imagery superimposed thereon. Now, add hundreds of Christmas lights and animated holiday scenes, and tip the scales from creepy to fun, and you’ve got a small idea of what’s in store at this drive-through light show at Portland International Raceway ... or maybe you should just check it out for yourself.
Through December 26, Keller Auditorium
It’s not December without the pirouetting sugarplum fairies and sword-wielding mice of Balanchine’s beloved ballet. If you don’t like your Tchaikovsky canned, seek out one of the performances featuring a live orchestra.
Christmas at the Old Church
December 15–26, The Old Church
Michael Allen Harrison’s prodigious piano playing has decked these halls for a quarter of a century. He’ll be joined by other musicians in the Old Church’s hallowed space for some festive classics.
A Christmas Carol
Through December 30, Portland Playhouse
For the fourth year, the King-neighborhood company gives the Dickens classic a song-filled kick, elevating it from schlocky to sterling.
Christmas at the Pittock Mansion
Through December 31, Pittock Mansion
Portland’s beloved West Hills mansion gets some holiday flair for the 50th year running. The tradition of decorating the Pittock dates back to 1966, when a group of Laurelhurst Elementary students made ornaments to trim the tree. This year’s display spans 15 spaces inside the mansion, with 39 Christmas trees, kilometers of lights and holiday-themed decoration, and live music daily. BYOSEN (Bring Your Own Spiked Egg Nog).
The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights
Through December 31, The Grotto
There may be no better way to fully immerse yourself in the delirious glee of Christmas than by strolling through the Festival of Lights at the Grotto. This year, expect nearly 160 choral performances from some of the most renowned church, school, and civic choirs in the region. Come all ye faithful, whatever the faith: this’ll bring out the joyful and triumphant in you.