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HOLIDAY GUIDE: Fill your season with the best bets for cupcake-making, candle-lighting, solstice reflection, and local retail

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The Union Square tree lighting is a highlight -- but there are plenty of alternatives for lowkey holiday celebrants this year.

Bill Graham Menorah Day Union Square, SF. www.chabadsf.org. Dec. 9, festivities start at 3pm, menorah lighting at 5pm, free. Each day from December 8-15, a candle will be ceremoniously lit on the Bill Graham mahogany menorah, a gift from the famous San Francisco promoter to his city. But on the 9th, Bill Graham Menorah Day festivities will occupy Union Square, a beautiful beginning to the Festival of Lights in the city.

Public library winter celebration Bernal Heights Library, 500 Cortland, SF. www.sfpl.org. Dec. 12, 6:30-8:30pm, free. The library's got all kinds of free holiday programming this year, from cupcake-decorating and card-making to a magic show with a winter wonderland theme. Today's no exception: join the Bernal Heights community for a kid-friendly celebration featuring the Bernal Jazz Quintet, refreshments, and children's movies.

Frosting the Conservatory Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F. Kennedy, SF. (415) 831-2090, www.conservatoryofflowers.org. Dec. 15, 11am-3pm, $10. Make your own ginger-greenhouse at this event amid the hothouse blooms of the Conservatory of Flowers. This events gets our thumbs-up for guaranteed toastiness, because being warm and cozy is a pre-req for Christmas cheer.

Jewish Christmas with Broke Ass Stuart The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. www.makeoutroom.com. Dec. 25, 5-11pm, $10. Strip dreidel set to the tune of streaming Woody Allen, Larry David, and Sascha Baron Cohen footage sounds like our kind of Christmas. Such was the vision of DJ Matt Haze and host Broke Ass Stuart, who designed this kitschy extravaganza for all of you (Chosen and Left Behind alike) who can't stomach staying in on a perfectly good day off. Did we mention there will be a Chinese food buffet?

Kwanzaa celebration Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds, Sausalito. www.baykidsmuseum.org. Dec. 26, 9am-5pm, free. A traditional Kwanzaa altar will greet you upon arriving at the kids museum's celebration of African-American culture, featuring two performance (at 11am and 1pm) by African Roots of Jazz.

PERFORMANCE

The Christmas Ballet Various times and Bay Area locations. www.smuinballet.org. Nov. 23 — Dec. 23, $25-65. Back by popular demand, the Smuin Ballet Company returns with this annual production, split this year into two acts: "Classical Christmas" and "Cool Christmas." Both promise eye-opening, energetic entertainment set to eclectic tunes from Elvis to klezmer.

A Christmas Carol American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary, SF. (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. Nov. 30-Dec. 24, various times, $20–$160. Stressful election year and rumors of apocalypse tightened those purse strings? Exorcise your inner Scrooge at this classic stage production of Charles Dickens' terrifying ode to generosity and kindness towards diminutive children.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., SF. www.victoriatheatre.org. Dec. 6-30, Thu.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 7pm, $30. Our cover girl Cookie Dough co-stars as Sophia Petrillo in this now-traditional SF holiday stage production of the classic sitcom that employs more shoulder pads, even, than the original TV show. You'll never know a catty elderly network television star until you've seen her re-enacted by a drag queen. Buy tickets pronto, the shows usually sell out.

California Revels Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakl. (510) 452-8800, www.californiarevels.org. Dec. 7-9, 13-15. Fridays 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays 1 and 5pm, $20-55. Feast and family are cornerstones of this annual interactive period piece performance celebrating the winter solstice. Hoist your mead and turkey leg and sway to the music, friends, good times will be upon ye here.

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