The first day of the twelve days of Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, begins on Christmas Day. Since November, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden has offered an opportunity to experience all twelve in the same day. The Arboretum’s inaugural 12 Days of Christmas exhibit, on display through January 4, features a dozen 25-foot, glass-encased Victorian gazebos, each filled with scenes and mechanized figures depicting the lyrics in the English composer Frederic Austin’s popular 1909 version of the song. The contents of many of the gazebos, which are spread over three quarters of a mile, shine with exacting detail. But the fifth and the tenth day favor whimsy: the five golden rings are conveyed in a circus tent with a white bear and four seals balancing rings on their noses, and the ten lords a-leaping are shown with gentlemen going airborne on ice skates. The exhibit is best experienced at night, when the gazebos are lit and carolers abound.
Dallas Arboretum, Dec. 12 to Jan. 4, dallasarboretum.org
Belief in Miracles
Many people celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus even though they stopped believing in his existence about the time they lost their first tooth. Perhaps a part of them does not want to stop believing. Miracle on 34th Street, the 1947 movie about a man named Kris Kringle who insists he is the real deal, is a great example of keeping the faith, and Penfold Theatre’s A Miracle on 34th Street Classic Radiocast, a stage performance modeled after live-action radio, updates it in a compelling way. Five actors play dozens of characters and share in creating Foley sound effects, like those of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where Kringle outs a drunk Santa-for-hire, and of bags of mail being dragged into the courtroom to prove Kringle’s authenticity. This is a new Christmas production for the theater company, after three years of staging It’s A Wonderful Life. “Think of it as going to see a taping of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ if the entire episode you watched were a presentation of Miracle on 34th Street,” the show’s writer and director, Nathan Jerkins, said.
Old Settler’s Hall, Dec. 12-27, penfoldtheatre.org
Going to the Ball
In the sixties, Michael Martin Murphey emerged as a songwriter in the North Texas scene with Steven Fromholz and Ray Wylie Hubbard. In the seventies, Murphey was part of the outlaw country zeitgeist at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, along with Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. And in the eighties, Murphey enjoyed mainstream success with hit songs like “What’s Forever For.” But Murphey is perhaps best known as a performer of cowboy songs, and his twenty-first annual Cowboy Christmas Tour is a great stage for them. The shows recreate the Cowboys’ Christmas Ball, in Anson in 1885, with waltzes, mazurkas, and the Virginia reel danced by women in ball dresses and men in string ties and frock coats.
Bass Hall, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., michaelmartinmurphey.com
Let It Snow
The title of White Christmas, the 1954 movie based on Irving Berlin’s songs, sort of gives the ending away. But until the concluding scene, there was a good chance that no snow would fall in Vermont, meaning lackluster attendance for Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen’s performance at the Columbia Inn, and possibly leading to the establishment going out of business. San Antonians who attend a Thursday screening of the film, part of the McNay Art Museum’s Get Reel: 60th Anniversary Film Series, are likely to empathize because snow is something wished for but rarely granted; the city got a light dusting in 2011 but little else dating back to 1985. Attendees can get toasty with a wine reception before the movie.
McNay Art Museum, Dec. 18, 6:30 p.m., mcnayart.org
Peace of Germany
The Tomball German Christmas Market website says, “You do not have to be German to enjoy this festival.” The primary goal of this three-day revelry is gemütlichkeit—the equivalent of that peaceful, easy feeling—which is to be had in abundant supply with live polka music, dunkel bier, and, of course, shopping, all while taking in the Chicken Dance, the yodeling and great beard contests.
Old Town Tomball, Dec. 12-14, tomballgermanfest.org
Gun culture has changed significantly since Ralphie pleaded with Santa for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred-shot range model with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time,” but even firearm opponents are likely to enjoy singing along to “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” one of the numbers in the Tony-nominated A Christmas Story: The Musical.
Music Hall at Fair Park, Dec. 12-14, dallassummermusicals.org