December—People, Places, Events, Attractions


It’s list-checking time again up at the North Pole, so if you’ve been more naughty than nice this year, some friendly advice: Head straight to Columbus. You can plead your case directly—and ad nauseam—at the Mary Elizabeth Hopkins Santa Claus Museum, where more than two thousand versions of the paunchy benefactor himself will grant you audience. The eclectic Saint Nick multitude, possibly the biggest gathering of jolly fat men in the world, was amassed by Hopkins and showcased in her home every December until her death, in 1990. Lay your milk-and-cookies peace offering at the feet of a red- and green-eyed Santa, twenties-era figures molded out of celluloid, an origami-like character made from Reader’s Digest pages, an iconic figurine designed by Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast, or the Kringle that inspired it all: a 1913 papier-mâché ornament given to Hopkins on her first Christmas. There may be sugarplum visions in your future yet. Katharyn Rodemann

(For directions and more information, see Columbus, Museums/Galleries).

Coming Attractions

The month in giving.

Sweet Charity

An extended war, more terrorist attacks, freakish acts of nature, and now the bird flu: If there’s ever been a need for good cheer, this is the year. Reindeer sweaters and eggnog aside, here are some practical ways to spread the love this season. by Jordan Breal and Katharyn Rodemann

  1. Skip the office politics and be a not-so-secret Santa to those whose squeals of delight are more rewarding than your co-workers’. Help build and deliver shiny new bikes to Houston-area kids with Elves and More, which will distribute more than 13,000 two-wheelers and 100,000 gifts. You can volunteer to assemble bikes or wrap goodies at Reliant Center beginning December 12 or sign up for the December 23 delivery runs (; 866-582-4537).

    Prefer to party? Get your jingle bell swing on at the December 3 Project Love–Santa’s Angels bash at Six Flags AstroWorld, also in Houston, benefiting nearly three hundred families in need. Wrap presents, serve food, or take on cleaning duty as the kids open one of their three gifts (two are for Christmas Day!). It’s the last event the park will see before it closes forever (281-794-9710).

  2. Some 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with HIV every year, and Texas ranks among the top five states in reported cases. December 1 is World AIDS Day. Show your solidarity with more than just a ribbon.

    Illumination Project 2005 Part memorial service, part call to hope, this evening of dance, theater, film, and music benefits the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative and Bering Omega Community Services, an AIDS support organization. Performances by Paola Georgudis, David Neumann, and members of Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Hope Stone Dance Company, and Stages Repertory Theater, among others, will culminate in a candle-lighting ceremony that honors those who live with or have died from the disease. (Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Houston.)

    (For directions and more information, see Houston, Other Events).

    Designers’ Holiday Collection: Celebration and Silent Auction The Fort Worth Men’s Chorus, soprano Margaurite Mathis-Clark and baritone John Sauvey, an African harpist, and others will set the mood as visitors nibble and tipple before bidding on holiday trees, centerpieces, and wreaths designed by local artists and interior designers. Proceeds will benefit the Fort Worth–based AIDS Outreach Center. (Arlington Museum of Art.)

    (For directions and more information, see Arlington, Other Events).

  3. Open the door to quality housing in San Antonio when you and the Silver Dancers raise the roof at the SBC Center on December 3: The Philadelphia 76ers will challenge Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and friends on their home court during the Habitat for Humanity Appreciation Night With the Spurs. Four dollars of every ticket you buy will go directly to the city’s Habitat chapter, which turns thirty this coming year. (; 210-223-5203. Tickets start at $25.35.)

Know of other ways to donate time, talent, or treasure this season? Post your event at

On the road

Oh, the places you should go.

>> Austin

’Twas the night before January, when all through downtown, not a creature was stirring—well, unless you count the capoeira dancers, the costumed musicians, the storytellers, and the Chinese yo-yoers on the streets. Implausible? That’s exactly what you can expect this New Year’s Eve in our capital city, when artists of all stripes will co-opt sidewalks, hotel lobbies, and storefronts for First Night Austin 2006. Listen to slam poets on the Paramount Theatre’s balconies, view film projections on the side of the eleven-story Radisson Hotel, and don’t miss the exuberant procession down Congress Avenue featuring giant puppets, robots, and even a Segway ballet. It’s all family friendly, so book a night at any downtown hotel and bring the kiddos. With a grand pyrotechnic finale on Town Lake, the evening will stir even the most reticent bohemian. Katharyn Rodemann

(For directions and more information, see Austin, Other Events).

>> Terlingua

You want the quietest New Year’s Eve you can find outside your own living room. But you want it to be romantic! And fun! You want a nice dinner. And you want some other people there too. Oh, you have all kinds of conditions, don’t you? The solution: Far Flung Outdoor Center’s overnight river tour along the Rio Grande. Gather the morning of December 31 before shipping off to explore the canyons of Big Bend; at a campsite that evening you’ll be served an enticing last 2005 meal by the Far Flung staff. A local musician will set the mood around the campfire as you swill champagne and wait for midnight under the West Texas stars. Most likely, it will be quiet, romantic, and fun. And your memories of the night won’t fade into those of auld lang syne. Katy Vine

(For directions and more information, see Terlingua, Other Events).

>> Bryan

Of all the wineries in all the towns in all the world, consider walking into Messina Hof Winery and Resort this New Year’s Eve, where 2006 will be welcomed Casablanca-style. There’ll be food (with a Mediterranean influence, of course), casino-style gambling, and dancing (we dare you to ask bandleader Eugene Smith to play “As Time Goes By” just once, for old times’ sake). Costumes are encouraged, as are impressions of Bogey and Bergman. And if you and your usual suspects want to make a weekend of it, the winery will accommodate with a room at its bed-and-breakfast, plus a champagne brunch, a wine-and-cheese reception, and a tour and tasting of the venue’s signature export. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Stacy Hollister

(For directions and more information, see Bryan, Other Events).

>> Luckenbach

A good country song—like a good New Year’s Eve bash—is equal parts nostalgia for the past and hope for the future, with some drinking thrown in for good measure. Spend the last night of 2005 making new memories in Luckenbach with a crowd of VIPs (“everybody’s somebody,” as they say here) at the dance hall’s first end-of-the-year party since 1994. Early birds can catch the hall’s very own singing bartendress, Candace Kunz, at the afternoon Hill Country Musicians Jam, and cowboy crooners Mike Blakely and the Whiskey Traders will keep your boots scooting from nine o’clock till the climactic countdown and champagne toast. Fill up on breakfast tacos and black-eyed peas at midnight, then wander over to the local Full Moon Inn. You’ll be dreaming of Waylon and Willie and the boys before you know it. Jordan Breal

(For directions and more information, see Luckenbach, Other Events).