How to Spend the Holidays in New York City

How to Spend the Holidays in New York City

A chronological sampling of seasonal celebrations throughout New York City, including concerts, plays and events.

Turn on a TV during December, and you’re bound to find countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” It’s beginning to feel the same way in New York’s theaters. On Broadway, a version by Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) is now open — and is a New York Times Critic’s Pick ( Downtown, in the intimate parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum through Jan. 5, John Kevin Jones portrays Dickens recounting his holiday classic on a trip to New York in 1867 ( “A Christmas Carol in Harlem,” at Aaron Davis Hall through Dec. 21, transports the story to present-day Manhattan ( And the Staten Island Shakespeare Company tells it from the perspective of Ebenezer Scrooge’s damned and departed business partner in “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” Dec. 12-22 (

As synonymous with New York Christmas as “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” the Radio City Rockettes’ “Christmas Spectacular is now running — sometimes five times per day — through Jan. 5 ( At the more humble Kaye Playhouse, the Harlem School of the Arts will present “A Harlemettes Holiday,” a celebration of the neighborhood’s rich cultural and political history, on Dec. 19 ( If you’re seeking to be dazzled beyond the confines of a theater, though, simply visit the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, whose houses are famous for their blindingly elaborate Christmas decorations. (Guided tours are available through A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours.)

It gets bigger every year: Now on view through Jan. 26, the New York Botanical Garden’s annual spectacle in miniature features replicas of nearly 200 local landmarks — all created from natural materials like lotus pods and cinnamon sticks. The latest highlight is a re-creation of Central Park assembled with mosses and holly, and featuring treasures like Belvedere Castle. Select evenings, called Bar Car Nights, cater to the 21-and-older crowd with spiked warm drinks, musical performances and diverse cuisine from the Bronx Night Market Holiday Pop-up (

This storied space is practically booked through the month for holiday concerts. Many of them are annual engagements, such as one by the Vienna Boys Choir on Dec. 8. That same day, in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, Cristina Fontanelli presents the 16th edition of her “Christmas in Italy.” The National Children’s Chorus arrives on Dec. 15 for a solstice-themed program. (The actual solstice isn’t until later, but that’s not stopping even Paul Winter from hosting his beloved Winter Solstice celebration Dec. 19-21 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.) Also at Carnegie are the duo Keith and Kristyn Getty, who are offering an Irish singalong on Dec. 18, and the New York Pops, reveling in Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald classics on Dec. 20 and 21 (

The final installment of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival will be brief, running Dec. 12-14, with the big-voiced and bawdy chanteuse Meow Meow ( She has previously performed at Joe’s Pub, which has its own slate of seasonal cabaret: Mr. Showbiz himself, Murray Hill, presents “A Murray Little Christmas” Dec. 18-21, with guests including the fearless downtown fixture Bridget Everett; Carolyn Bergier, the host of the podcast “Dyking Out,” adds some queer to Christmas cheer in Dyke the Halls: A Holigay Spectacular” on Dec. 16; and the great Sandra Bernhard closes out the year with “Sandy’s Holiday Extravaganza — A Decade of Madness and Mayhem,” Dec. 26-31 ( At Feinstein’s/54 Below, Joe Iconis (“Be More Chill”) hosts his annual Christmas show that bills itself as “putting the ‘extra’ in ‘extravaganza,’” Dec. 13-15. And Michael Feinstein’s “Home for the Holidays,” Dec. 23-30, offers a comparatively warmhearted evening by way of the Great American Songbook (

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s rich and varied December programming includes the musician Moya Brennan’s concert “An Irish Holiday” (Dec. 13); the cabaret star Ute Lemper’s grittier “Weimar Holiday” (Dec. 14); the Handel+Haydn Society’s concert featuring one of the museum’s Stradivarius violins, played by Aisslinn Nosky (Dec. 20); and the Crossing, an indispensable choral ensemble, performing David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio, “The Little Match Girl Passion,” and a new work by Edie Hill (Dec. 21). Mr. Lang’s piece, inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen tale, has become a holiday tradition at the Met; its quietly haunting message about homelessness and compassion is always worth hearing again (

In Queens, the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center’s Kwanzaa Celebration on Dec. 14 is geared toward families, with a variety of offerings for those who want to be at the center of the programming — such as workshops — or just want to remain in the audience at dance and musical performances ( Participation is all but required on Dec. 15 in Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night,” his annual boombox procession from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park. He always has personal vintage boomboxes to loan (and cassettes for those with their own); but you can also get by with a track available to download, play through a smartphone app or stream on SoundCloud ( Another December stalwart, Make Music Winter, returns on the 21st with programming all over the city; among the highlights are a sound walk on the High Line, a fiddle-and-dance parade down Flatbush Avenue and an unseasonal but remarkable marathon performance of Satie’s “Vexations” at the World Trade Center ( One event is a ukulele caroling party at Washington Square Park’s arch; if that instrument doesn’t suit you, on Dec. 22, the West Village Chorale will host a caroling walk that begins and ends on the park’s south side, at Judson Memorial Church (

This holiday begins Dec. 22, but the Jewish Museum will celebrate early, on Dec. 15, with family-focused events including a performance by Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights and a workshop to build your own Hanukkah lamp with found objects. Visitors will also be able to take a guided tour of the museum’s virtually permanent exhibition “Accumulations,” which features more than 80 Hanukkah lamps from around the world (

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