The battle of the dueling alternative-Christmas-Eve celebrations-for-Jewish-singles continues this year. In this corner: the Matzoh Ball, organized by the Young Jewish Professionals Organization and now a staple in 14 cities around the country. Sponsors this year include the Hedonism II resort in Jamaica, a stay at which is the grand prize in the evening’s door-prize raffle, and the exceedingly politically incorrect Coors beer. It all takes place at Lucky’s, 213 W. Institute Place, from 8 PM on. Tickets are $20, $15 in advance. Call 604-1810 or 800-829-0404. The challenger is a few blocks west at Ka-Boom!, 747 N. Green. The Oy-Vay Alternative to X-Mas Eve will feature a fashion show, Johnny Vegas and the Disco Inferno Dancers, a juggler, a magician, an astrologer, and lots of live music. It starts at 8 as well and costs $11; organizers will discount $2 if you bring a bagel (wrapped) for distribution to the Neon Street shelter. Call 975-8059.
Berlin’s twisted take on Christmas includes Gina Taye as Divine smashing the Christmas tree and Santa’s S & M bondage helpers determining whether partyers have been being naughty or nice. Doors open at 9 PM, admission is $3, and the address is 954 W. Belmont. Call 348-4975 for more.
Chicago’s deepest soul man, Otis Clay, and his band, the Chicago Fire, preside at a Christmas party tonight at FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt in Berwyn. The music starts around 10; admission is $6. Call 708-788-2118 for more.
In Hemingway family tradition, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park is observing Boxing Day–the British holiday that got its start in feudal times when the lords and ladies of the castle would box up the leftovers the day after Christmas and distribute them to the serfs. The Hemingways were of English descent, and they celebrated the day with food, folk songs, and “lots of Gilbert and Sullivan,” say the folks at the foundation. They’ll be offering scones and shortbread in between tours of the Hemingway birthplace home, at 339 N. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park, which the foundation recently acquired. Admission is $3, $2.50 for seniors and students; the house will be open from 1 to 5 today. Call 708-848-2815.
There are a couple of places to keep the kids distracted this week. At the Field Museum there’s the weeklong exhibit Giants of the Earth, which concentrates on the planet’s largest animals and plants. Staffers will be on hand to explain why big things are big and small things small, and there’ll be lots of activities–mural painting, measuring a dinosaur footprint–and films to boot. It runs today through Friday from 10 to 4 only. The museum is at Roosevelt Road and Lake Shore Drive; admission is $5, $3 for kids, seniors, and students, with a $16-per-family max. Call 922-9410 for more. Today through Thursday, the Chicago Historical Society offers a kids’ activity each day from 10:30 to noon. Today it’s stories from Carl Coash; tomorrow, a design-your-own T-shirt program, complete with a tour of the museum’s ongoing exhibit “A Brief History: The Jockey Underwear Story”; Wednesday there’s storyteller Tom Clark; and Thursday kids make a one-month calendar. The society’s at Clark and North; admission is $3, $2 for seniors and students, and $1 for kids. Call 642-4600 for more.
The Chicago Cultural Center’s observation of Kwanzaa continues today with a dance concert by the Alyo Children’s Dance Theater, a troupe of kids ages 4 to 17 trained in percussion, song, and dance. The show is at 12:15 in Preston Bradley Hall in the center, 78 E. Washington. Kwanzaa, which means “first fruit,” is an African American holiday based on African agricultural celebrations. On Thursday there’s a performance by a group called We Speak, which comprises poet-musicians Iesha Scott and Denise Leeks. That’s at 12:15 in the center’s theater. Both events are free; call 346-3278 for more info.
Closing this week: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten!, the Apple Tree Theatre’s interpretation of the stories of Robert Fulghum. Fulghum is the author of four books of impish sociological observations: It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, Uh-Oh, Maybe (Maybe Not), and the book that gave the current production its name. The theater is at 595 Elm Place in Highland Park; remaining show times are tonight at 7:30, Friday at 5:30 and 9, Saturday at 8, and Sunday at 3 and 7. Tix are $20-$23, except for the late New Year’s Eve show, which costs $30. Call 708-432-4335.
You might have seen The Primal Connection doing its stuff on the street. But tonight the elaborate, improvisational, primarily percussion ensemble is doing a gig at Cafe Voltaire, 3231 N. Clark. Things get under way at 7; admission is $5. Call 528-3136.
Dawn Toddy, the latest full-length improvisational offering from the theater group that calls itself simply Ed, moves to Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton, this week for a four-week run. There are shows tonight and tomorrow (there’s a postshow party New Year’s Eve) and then Friday and Saturday shows through January 21. They all start at 9 PM. Tickets are $8. Call 800-337-4697 for more.
December 31 through January 6
First Night, Evanston’s popular nonalcoholic arts and music fest, starts at 4 PM New Year’s Eve and ends with a bang with fireworks at midnight. In between, the celebration spreads across 17 indoor sites in downtown Evanston. There’ll be jazz from the likes of the Diane Delin Jazz Quartet, story telling from Syd Lieberman, dance from Winifred Haun and Dancers, comedy from the Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind troupe, and lots more. (The fireworks are at Northwestern University Evanston Research Park, 1033 University Place.) One button gets you admission everywhere; it costs $8, $7 for kids 4 to 12 ($6 and $5 in advance). Kids 3 and under get in free. Call 708-491-0266 for a detailed schedule or to order tickets.
New Year’s Revolutions is a New Year’s Eve run in Lincoln Park, sponsored by Michael’s Chicago-Style Red Hots restaurant, the Clybourn Physical Therapy Center, and General Nutrition Centers. The evening begins at 8:30 with registration and some “light carbo loading” at Michael’s, 1946 N. Clark. The race starts at 10 PM in front of the Farm in the Zoo, on Stockton just south of Armitage, with both two- and four-mile versions winding through candle-lit paths in the park. After the race there’s a party with food and drinks at Michael’s. Registration is $30, $25 in advance, $15 if you want to come to the party only. Call 944-6667 for details.
A Film Center retrospective on the screwball comedies of Carole Lombard begins Tuesday, January 4. The former Jane Alice Peters’s career was in a rut before she found her comedic metier in No Man of Her Own, in which she starred with future husband Clark Gable. That film shows at 6 Tuesday night. The classic Twentieth Century follows on Thursday at 6, and the series continues with Nothing Sacred (January 18 at 6), My Man Godfrey (January 20 at 6), Made for Each Other (January 25 at 6), and Hands Across the Table (January 27 at 6), and concludes with her last film, To Be or Not to Be (January 29 at 4). (Lombard died in a plane crash in 1942, just before the film’s premiere.) The Film Center is at the School of the Art Institute, Columbus and Jackson. Admission is $5; call 443-3733.