Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from catching the Polyphonic Spree in Dallas to dining with the cranes in Galveston. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Dec 9–Dec 18]
Jingle Bell Pop
“It’s time for some new Christmas songs that people can call their own,” said Tim DeLaughter, the frontman for the Polyphonic Spree, the Dallas chorale-pop band that has just released the single “It’s Christmas.” And while it may not look like wintertime outside, it will be a wonderland inside at the Spree’s ninth annual Holiday Extravaganza, with manufactured snow blasted into the air. The benefit concert will rival a Flaming Lips show, and will include a set of Christmas songs and a set of secular songs. Let DeLaughter’s zeal for the season take you back to when you still believed in Santa Claus. (To gauge his holiday cheer, check out the photo he posted to the Twitter page of Preteen Zenith, his side band, of an eight-foot wreath he transformed into a peace sign.) “I plan to experience Christmas through my children’s spirited enthusiasm,” DeLaughter said, “for anything can happen at this time of year.”
Lakewood Theater, Dec. 10, 6 p.m. theholidayextravaganza.com
Big Bird Lands
Instead of trying to beat the next level of Angry Birds on your new smartphone, step outside and see one of the state’s most captivating acts of avian behavior in real life: the migration of cranes to the coast. Breakfast with the Cranes, hosted by the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, is a carpool tour of some of the marshes and upland areas in Texas that harbor hundreds of thousands of Sandhill cranes, the species that bears a crimson mask, makes a rattling sound and stands about four feet tall. (Whooping cranes, the endangered, other species in North America, tend to populate Port Aransas.) “People who live on the west end of Galveston have been watching sandies for years,” said Sue Reed of the tourism council. “It’s Galveston’s best-kept secret.”
Galveston Country Club, Dec. 10, 8 a.m. galvestonnaturetourism.org
Luck of the Mouse-Click
The random fortune of the Internet assures a good laugh, if not wild-eyed consternation, at the Tube-Off Tournament, where contestants have thirty seconds to find Christmas-themed videos on YouTube of subjects generated by the audience. The video that excites the “applause-o-meter” the most wins. “You see so much media through the Internet,” said Mary Magsamen, the curator of Aurora Picture Show and host of the friendly competition. “And so much of it is really bad, and so much is really funny.” Expect the unexpected. Type “Santa dogs,” a subject offered by Magsamen, into YouTube’s search box and three of the top results include a promotional video for the book “I Am Santa,” in which dogs are washed by a little boy who thinks he is Santa; a skit of the Amazing Tuppy Dog pining for a new play rope while Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” plays; and news footage of the trend in Tokyo to stylize miniature dogs like Santa. Take notes so you remember which video links to send your friends in lieu of mailing holiday cards.
To Give or Receive
In the early 1900s, people anticipated short stories by William Sidney Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry, as much as Ralphie in A Christmas Story looked forward to “Little Orphan Annie” dispatches. But that all changed when Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the other modernists arrived, downgrading O. Henry to shtick. The staging of Gifts of the Magi, as part of Christmas Treasures, the three-play, community-theater production, is an ideal occasion to honor the writer, illustrator and musician who lived a third of his life in Texas. Gifts, one of the finest examples of an O. Henry twist ending, is the story of a poor New York couple who makes great sacrifices to buy Christmas presents for each other. Attention, last-minute shoppers: the universal message here—it’s the thought that counts—is worth the price of admission.
Granbury Opera House, Dec. 11, 15-16, 18, various times. granburyoperahouse.net
Each Flag’s Story
A certain amusement park makes it seem as though there should be six flags flying over Texas, but Nacogdoches, the oldest town in the state, claims there should nine, and you will learn why at the Nine Flags Christmas Festival.
Downtown, Dec. 9-10, various times. visitnacogdoches.org
Cheeseburger in Paradise
You won’t have to gladly pay your friend on Tuesday for a hamburger today, because it will already be Tuesday when Burger House offers 60-cent cheeseburgers at all of its locations as part of its 60th anniversary.
Burger House, Dec. 13, 11 a.m., burgerhouse.com