Sweets will be available at the WNDRland of the Sweets event at WNDR museum. Credit: Hannah Shanker

Lots of end-of-year cheer to be had with these upcoming events! Whether it’s looking at lights, shopping for a good cause, or airing your grievances, we’ve got you covered. Don’t forget about dance, theater, and magic show options that we’ve covered in previous PSAs

And as for light-peeping, here are a few options:

  • Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce offers art light projections on various storefronts including 2338 N. Clark and 2380 N. Lincoln. A full list is here.
  • The City of Chicago’s official Christmas Tree is a great spot for photo opportunities, near Washington and Michigan (perhaps after an ice skating session at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink?).
  • Plenty of lights are on display at the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” exhibit. Advance tickets are available.

FRI 12/17

The Hoyle Brothers transform their regular happy hour honky tonk at the Empty Bottle tonight into a Holiday Party, complete with a food drive to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Bring a shelf-stable food time with to donate as you enjoy free country music from 5-7:30 PM at 1035 N. Western (the venue is 21+). 

The Hoyle Brothers penned an original Christmas country tune.

Put the “winter” in “wonderland” at the WNDR Museum (1130 W. Monroe) tonight. While the museum’s seasonal installation Winter WNDRland is on view until 1/2, this evening you can enjoy extended hours with some extra festive fun. Choose from four times between 7 PM and 8:30 PM to run through the show while enjoying Nutcracker-inspired treats from Sugarcoat and a soundtrack provided by DJ SKOLi. This is a family-friendly event that costs $50/person.

Get your mosh on, holiday style with a Pop-Punk X-Mas show. Whether you love pop punk or just a lineup with even less women than the Nativity story, at 7:30 PM you can belt it out with the Fluorescents, Wolf Rd., Four Stars, and Sora Kai at Subterranean (2011 W. North). Proof of vaccination is required. $10, 17+

Mariachi Herencia de México is putting on four shows this weekend: one tonight at 8 PM and three tomorrow at 2 PM, 5 PM, and 8 PM, respectively. This Latin Grammy-nominated group will elevate Mexican holiday traditions with a bilingual performance of Mexican and American holiday standards. Expect a fun-filled, family-friendly time of dancing and decorations at the Old Town School of Folk Music (4545 N. Lincoln). $28 ($26 for members), all-ages.

The Michael Nearpass Large Ensemble is performing Duke Ellington’s jazz interpretation of The Nutcracker at Fulton Street Collective (1821 W. Hubbard) at 8 PM. While tickets for the in-person show are $15, you can stream the performance for free at youtube.com/FultonStreetCollective. This is an all-ages, family-friendly event.

SAT 12/18

Happy Gallery (902 N. California) guarantees you would like to come buy art from their rag-tag group of local creators at their Winter Gift-Giver Art Sale—and who are we to disagree? Whether you like it arty or weird, this pop-up from noon-10 PM is sure to surprise and delight. For a complete list of participants, check out Happy Gallery’s Instagram page.

There are no shortage of shopping pop-ups today, but if you’re looking for something that centers queer makers (especially queer makers of color), check out the Queer Bazaar in the lobby of Soho House (113-125 N. Green). From noon-5 PM, there will be a range of cuties offering everything from holiday gifts to retail therapy, all organized by the smallWORLD Collective. Note: you do not need to be a SoHo House member to shop the bazaar!

If you’ve got a little one enamored with the Nutcracker, get them to the Magic of the Nutcracker Dance Workshop, stat! At 1 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music (4545 N. Lincoln) is hosting a two-hour tutorial on Nutcracker choreography aimed at kids 6-12 years old. While some ballet knowledge is helpful, no previous experience is necessary—just some holiday spirit and a strong urge to dance. $30 ($28 for members).

Chicago Community Jail Support, a grassroots group that works with people recently released from Chicago jails, is looking for donations. While they’ll be accepting items at drop-off locations throughout the city until 1/10 (contact them directly to learn more), today you can meet them outside Cook County Jail (2700 S. California) from 2-4 PM, to donate; the group especially needs winter clothing (especially coats in sizes M-3XL), snacks, and other items listed here to give directly to people as they get released from prison. 

Whether you’re excited about retro entertainment or eager for some adults-only daytime holiday fun, you’ll definitely want to check out this Holiday Punch Class at Punch House, located in the basement of Thalia Hall (1227 W. 18th). Tickets are available for groups of two ($130), four ($260), or six ($390), and include one punch bowl per party. In addition to learning Punch House’s holiday drink recipe–as well as tips and tricks for creating your own signature punch–each guest will also receive a take-home pocket cocktail of Milk Punch. Snacks will be on hand. Class starts at 3:30 PM, and this is for those 21 and up.

Celebrate the solstice with Chi-Nations Youth Council at First Nations Garden (4555 N. Pulaski). From 4-8 PM, they’ll be marking the beginning of winter by sharing a meal catered by the Ketapanen Kitchen, a food service founded by a Monominee woman who primarily sources from Native farmers, foragers, and businesses. Then Allen Turner will tell stories, and Leonard Malatare will teach stick games. At the end of evening, people will share triumphs and struggles from their year in a group conversation. This takes place in a heated wigwam, but there will also be a food tent and fire pit. Any questions (including about accessibility!) can be directed to fng@chinations.org.

A video about the building of First Nations Garden from Chi-Nations Youth Council.

Psychedelic Furs saxophonist and avant-garde jazz musician Mars Williams celebrates An Ayler Xmas with his performance tonight at Constellation (3111 N. Western). This 8:30 PM concert is $20 and open to those 18 and older, plus a livestream will screen on the venue’s YouTube channel for those who can’t make it in person (with donations appreciated from livestream viewers). 

In Mexico, Las Posadas (“The Inns”) is a religious festival celebrated between 12/16 and 12/24 commemorating Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging. Tonight Metro puts a Mexican-American spin on the tradition with La Posada, featuring Pachanga, Los SLKRS, and Joey Torres. Get down to cantina songs sung by Jose Alfredo, then enjoy a folkloric dance performance by the Collaborative Institute of Cultural Arts. There will also be a Christmas Market of local vendors and deejaying by boigrl, Dewey Lo Hace, Roger McFly, Memo Duarte, and DJ Barbi. A portion of ticket sales support the Collaborative Institute of Cultural Affairs. This party runs from 9 PM-2 AM and is 21+. $25-$45, $20 in advance.

SUN 12/19

So many kid-friendly holiday events, but what about people whose dogs are their babies? Mission Compassion Paw Rescue & Outreach has you covered. The dog rescue group is hosting their fourth annual Happy Holidawgs Party at GMan Tavern (3740 N. Clark) today from noon-4 PM. Enjoy holiday-themed cocktails, then snap a holiday pic with your furry friend. All proceeds go to MCP. 21+. EDIT: As of Sun 12/19/21, this event was postponed until sometime in 2022 due to concerns around the rise in COVID-19 cases. Keep an eye out at the rescue’s Instagram and Facebook pages for a new date.

Grammy-winning jazz singer Kurt Elling performs music from his 2016 holiday album at City Winery (1200 W. Randolph) tonight at 5 PM and 8 PM. This is perfect for those enamored with the sound and feeling of holiday jazz standards but are craving something unfamiliar. This is an all-ages show, and tickets range from $45-$60.

Kurt Elling performs with the Swingles in 2019.

DJ Dustin Drase is bringing a lifetime’s worth of quirky holiday heaters to Sleeping Village (3734 W. Belmont) tonight for a free night of tunes. From 8-11 PM, vibe out to “a soulful and sometimes baffling selection of seasonal cheer, Krampus jams, and other Christmas oddities you most likely won’t hear anywhere else.” 21+

TUE 12/21

Things are getting witchy at Metro Brewing (3057 N. Rockwell) from 6-9 PM tonight with a Winter Solstice (aka Yule) party. Learn about Yuletide traditions and according to the brewery “how beer has played a role in conjuring the sunlight slowly back from its winter hiatus . . . We’ll make sure you have the background, inspiration, and tools to celebrate Yule in your own space and to begin to create your own winter solstice traditions.” There will be a complimentary Altar Bar with items found, made, or blessed by practicing witches, and White City Devil and Roots + Sky will be selling magical items and spooky home decor. Free, 21+.

Back for its second year, Replay Chicago (2833 N. Sheffield) presents the Harry Potter-themed pop-up, A Very Harry Christmas. The local vintage arcade reimagines itself as Hogwarts at Christmastime with a cocktail menu to match. While there will be themed events through the end of the month (check Replay’s Facebook for details), tonight packs an extra holiday punch with a Yule Ball featuring a live performance by the Weird Sisters. Festivities kick off at 8 PM, and your $25 ticket includes two drinks. 21+.

WED 12/22

The Music Box celebrates its 38th annual Christmas Sing-A-Long screenings with multiple showtimes this month, including tonight’s 5 PM showing of White Christmas (followed by It’s A Wonderful Life at 8 PM). Santa himself will stop by to lead the crowd in a pre-film round of singing (lyrics to the carols are projected onto the Music Box screen while the theater’s organist Dennis Scott plays along). Tickets range from $10-21 with group rates available, and you can purchase in advance for all screenings here. For those who can’t make it in person this month, the theater offers a Christmas Sing-A-Long Home Edition that you can screen in your basement theater before streaming your own Jimmy Stewart or Bing Crosby movie; the home editions include a classic holiday short film and a special performance by Scott, Claus, and the Music Box Carolers. The home edition videos are free for Music Box Direct subscribers and $5 for everyone else, and are available here.

THU 12/23

The Chicago Detours tour company offers both a public (you’ll be paired with other people) or private (you’ll pay a little extra but get the tour guide to yourself) version of its Downtown Chicago Holiday Walking Detour. The tour meanders through downtown on foot while a tour guide offers holiday tales of the city. Don’t worry about the weather getting in the way of the fun—the tour will venture inside a few places (like Miller’s Pub) and you’ll be indoors for half the time. This is an experience for out-of-towners as much as city natives because you’ll hit Christmas classics (like Christkindlmarket) as much as offbeat spots while learning about things such as Chicago’s role in the legend of Rudolph. There’s a public tour scheduled today for 5-7 PM and tickets are available here

DMen Tap (​​2849 W. Belmont) is cohosting a Festivus party with Bucket O’ Blood Books. At 8 PM, the Festivus Pole goes up, so get ready to air your grievances, perform feats of strength, and enjoy a night of food and trivia that promises plenty of opportunities to win Bucket O’ Blood gift cards. 21+. EDIT: As of Mon 12/20/21, this event was canceled due to concerns around the rise in COVID-19 cases. The bar will remain open for regular service.

Deck the halls at the Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park West) tonight as Afro Fusion’s DJs blend hip hop, R&B, reggae, Afrobeats and more in a decidedly festive setting for their Afro Fusion Xmas Party. Get on Santa’s nice list by remembering to dress upscale! The party starts at 10 PM. $20, $15 in advance, 21+.

FRI 12/24

With all the raffles and surprises in store, it’ll feel like Christmas came early. DJs Playmaka and Jukie Tha Kidd are bringing the “holiday spirit and dancing vibes” to everyone who’s too old to wait up for Kris Kringle with The Night Before XMas Kickback. Grab your most glittering dancing shoes because things start shaking at the Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park West) at 9 PM. $20, $15 in advance, 21+.

SUN 12/26

At noon today, gather with community members at Fountain Square (1601 Sherman, Evanston) for the Kwanzaa Kinara lighting. Then from 2-4 PM, there will be a small celebration at the Robert Crown Community Center (1801 Main, Evanston) featuring arts and crafts, local artists selling wares, a West African community drum circle a contemporary West African dance performance, and a storytelling performance of Angela Shelf Medearis’s Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story. The event is free and family-friendly, but RSVP is required. Register by emailing fjtheatre@cityofevanston.org with your name and the number of people attending.

Need a holiday party that’s outta this world? Try the Disco Christmas in Space hosted by Emo Social Club at GMan Tavern (3740 N. Clark). Things get bumping at 9 PM, and it’s only a $5 cover. 21+.

MON 12/27

Join DMen Tap (​​2849 W. Belmont) to celebrate Romjul, the Norwegian tradition of regrouping between Christmas and New Years (the “in-between days”). While DMen’s only honoring the first day, it’ll feel like a few with a feast of traditional Scandinavian food (“julebord”), beer from Metropolitan Brewing, raffles, and tunes deejayed by Alexi D. Front of Scorched Tundra. The fun kicks off at 6 PM. 21+. EDIT: As of Mon 12/20/21, this event was canceled due to concerns around the rise in COVID-19 cases. The bar will remain open for regular service.