Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from making tamales in San Antonio to a classic take on the iconic holiday-time ballet, The Nutcracker. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Dec 2–Dec 9]



Holiday Stuffing
Tamales trump turkey in many parts of the state during the holiday season. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, families will gather for a tamalada, where, over the course of a day, hundreds of tamales are made assembly-style for personal consumption or to hand out as gifts. The second annual Tamales! Holiday Festival at the old Pearl brewery is a variation of a tamalada that involves the entire community, set to a bounty of live Mexican music. “Making the best tamales is all about friends and family and the camaraderie that comes with the process,” said Shelley Grieshaber, one of the event organizers. “If you take the process too seriously, without saucy tales and a lot of gossip thrown in, I think your tamales are destined to be heavy and bland, instead of light and delicious.” Learn the art of tamale-making—preparing masa, spicing the meat and wrapping the ingredients in husks—from chefs at the Culinary Institute of America. Sample more than 20 varieties of tamales, plus chalupas, anticuchos and Mexican street tacos, offered by more than thirty vendors. To lighten the mood, as Grieshaber suggests, guess which friends or family members will pull a Gerald Ford and try to eat their present without unwrapping it.
Pearl, December 3, noon


Return to Form
Peggy Willis-Aarnio, a choreographer and professor emeritus of the Texas Tech department of theater and dance, is trying to stop the degradation of the Nutcracker, the once-mighty ballet. “It has been adulterated with tricks, flashes and almost Disney-like choreography,” Willis-Aarnio said. “I could not stomach watching it.” She is reversing the trend of reinterpreting the show by taking the ballet, about the rich girl who defends her Nutcracker Prince against the Mouse King, back to its beginning. Willis-Aarnio will revisit the 1934 version by the Russian choreographer Vasily Vainonen, which is a tried-and-true version of the 1892 production that debuted in St. Petersburg, Russia, by the French choreographer Marius Petipa and Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Performing Willis-Aarnio’s production will be the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet Theatre, a Russian troupe under the artistic direction of Marina Medvetskaya, a prima ballerina who adheres to an old-world style that is rare in the post-Soviet era. “She demands a level of artistic excellence, precision and technical purity that is second to none,” Willis-Aarnio said.
McFarlin Memorial Auditorium, December 3, 7:30 p.m.


Now Hear This
Every person has a story to tell. But some stories aren’t convenient to tell around the kitchen table, even with close friends. Instead, they need to be told in public, to a bunch of strangers whose judgment of you has no bearing. The Moth is a New York-based storytelling program that allows professional spoken-word performers and living-room comics to reiterate that truth is stranger than fiction. “Narrative is the root of human consciousness,” said Mike Daisey, who will host the show in Austin. Daisey, a Moth veteran, is the lauded monologist whose spiels can run for up to 24 hours straight. “The telling of stories is the core act that defines what it is to be human,” Daisey said. “No other art form pierces as deeply, and resounds as fully.”
The Paramount Theatre, December 6, 8 p.m.


Trail of Cheers
Decorating the Christmas tree with your significant other over a bottle of wine is about as romantic as it gets. A means to that end is the Holiday Wine Trail, a self-guided tour of 31 wineries in the Hill Country—one of five yearly tours organized by Texas Hill Country Wineries. As part of the tasting package, each winery will offer a different ornament that you can pin on the wreath you can collect at Becker Vineyards. But lovers might rejoice in taking them home, with the discounted bottles of wine they purchase, and arranging them on their Noble Fir.
Becker Vineyards, December 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18, various times.


The Devil’s Music
The Charlie Daniels Band may be playing in an opera house, but when Mr. Daniels, the fiddle legend, busts into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and other songe from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, people are going to get up out of their seats and get down.
Winspear Opera House, December 7, 8 p.m.


Real-Time Salvation
It’s a Wonderful Life
is broadcast so often during the holiday season that people take it for granted, so to inspire newfound respect, the players at the Penfold Theatre Company are staging an anything-goes live radio show of the Frank Capra classic.
Friar Tuck’s Pantry, December 2-4, 8, 10, 15-17. various times.