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

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

Reclaiming's Sing Up The Sun ritual Inspiration Point parking lot, Tilden Park, Berk. Dec. 21, 6:30am, free. Wake up before the sun does to greet it on this, the day of the year when it spends the least time out of its bed. A pagan celebration, you're welcome to bring musical instruments and a warm Thermos of liquid to the community gathering.


Celebration of Craftswomen Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, SF. (650) 615-6838, Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm, $9 or $12 two-day pass. The first edition of this alternative holiday fair took place 34 years ago at the now-defunct Old Wives' Tales Bookstore on Valencia Street with 22 female makers-of-things. Today, the event fills the Herbst Pavilion, features 150 juried artists and a mini-film festival. It's still the best place for feminist shopping, some things don't change.

Holiday Design Bazaar Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, No. 109, SF. Nov. 30, 5-8pm; Dec. 1, noon-6pm, free. An arts fair with 25 local creators, plus live music and refreshments that may well make a difference in our kids' art education. The event is a benefit for Arts Ed Matters, a group that is looking to build community support for art in schools.

Creativity Explored holiday art sale Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF. Dec. 1-2, noon-5pm, free. Shop at this studio for developmentally-disabled artists and half of your bill will go straight into their pocket — standard practice for Creativity Explored, which has been the real-deal spot for outsider art in San Francisco since 1983.

Paxton Gate holiday party Dec. 1, 3-6pm at Paxton Gate's Curiosities for Kids, 766 Valencia; 8-10pm at Paxton Gate, 824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, One of the city's most beloved families of taxidermy/kid's toys/nursery shops, Paxton Gate is turning two decades of age this weekend. What better time to shop there? And what better to get your face painted "Victorian-style" (?!), check out stilt walkers and an accordionist-ballerina duo, and eat snacks during the day at its kids location — then walk two doors down later that night for more circus freakery, door prizes and a Hendrick's gin open bar at 826 Valencia's pirate shop?

Palestinian Craft Fair Middle East Children's Alliance office, 1101 Eighth St., Berk. Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm, free. Sip Arabic coffee while you paw through painted ceramics from Gaza, children's book, scarves, West Bank olive oil, and more at this chance to support a nonprofit benefiting craftspeople living in Palestine — a particularly salient cause in this year of war and turmoil.

Bazaar Bizarre Concourse Exhibition Center, East Hall, 620 Seventh St., SF. Dec. 1-2, 11am-6pm, free. This traveling indie craft fair stocks all the twee and yippee you need to get your gift recipients in your pocket. New in 2012: a mini-version of Forage SF's Underground market, for all your small biz-sourced holiday edible needs.

Muir Beach Quilters Holiday Arts Fair Muir Beach Community Center, 19 Seascape, Muir Beach. Dec. 1, 10am-5pm, Dec. 2 10am-4pm, free. Make a blustery beach journey that has time to spare for handicraft browsing. This annual gift fair stocks locally-made knickknacks by local groups (Muir Beach Garden Club included), and has more than retail opportunities. Hands-on crafts bars will stoke the creative fire of kids and big person shoppers alike.

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