The setting for this year’s Christmas Revels is a rural Kentucky household in 1863, where a group of runaway slaves seeking the Underground Railroad find shelter on the eve of the winter solstice. This makes for a celebration so rooted in mutual hope for peace and freedom that even a lone Confederate soldier comes to see the error of his ways. Spirituals and African-American myths join with square dancing (featuring Chicago Barn Dance caller Michael Miller), children’s games, and ballads and customs brought from the Old World–among them a mummers’ play recounting the story of John Barleycorn. The cast, under the direction of Sarah Gabel, includes L.J. Slavin, the Wrong Road String Band with Chirps Smith, the gospel chorus Vernon Clark and the Heirs of Joy, and the Shoo Fly Children, who do some fancy stepping on “Go Where I Send Thee.” Northwestern University, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, 847-467-4000. Opens Thursday, December 5, 8 PM. Through December 8: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $17-$40.