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Holidays on the East Side

Find out how your neighborhood is getting into the spirit of the season

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Caroling and Holiday Strolls
The holidays are a time for friends and family, and your neighbors tend to be a little bit of both. Take to the streets for some seasonal cheer – and cross off some of that last minute shopping.

Sing Along and Give Back
Want to give back this holiday season and have fun in the process? Join the Summit Neighborhood Association for Caroling for a Cause on December 11. You’ll meet at Miriam Hospital for some hot chocolate, cookies and a few Hanukkah songs before venturing out. The group will sing its way up (and down) Sixth, Fifth and Fourth streets between Summit Avenue and Bayard Street, collecting donations of cash or jars of peanut butter along the way to benefit the local food pantry at St. Raymond’s Church. All are invited to participate, including families with young children. 4pm. 164 Summit Avenue. SummitNeighbors.org

Shop and Celebrate
The Hope Street Merchants Association hosts its uber-popular annual Hope Street Holiday Stroll on December 4, and this year promises to be bigger than ever. Stop into each business for treats and refreshments plus special programming for adults and children.

The special programming includes story time for kids at 11am at Kreatelier, then glogg, baked goodies and a free craft session between 2-5pm. Throughout the afternoon at Evolve Apothecary’s Curious Nature Apothecary, stop in to meet the maker of one of their beauty lines. Studio Hop will be hosting a trunk show by Heather Guidero and Frog and Toad is launching a new clothing patch from Frog & Toad Press – every purchase earns you a free patch, so shop to your heart’s content (not that you needed an excuse).

The Stroll is the perfect opportunity to pick up some great gifts while also getting into the holiday spirit. However, if you’d like to do some kid-free shopping, the YMCA is offering discounted babysitting rates ($13 members; $18 non-members) for potty-trained children ages 8 and under between 12-6pm. HopeStreetProv.com

Way Into the Spirit on Wayland
Wayland Square won’t be sitting out on the activities this season, with events running all month long. Every Thursday of the month leading up to Christmas, visitors can stroll the square by the lantern light for their Luminary Thursdays. On December 3, Wayland Square businesses are getting into the giving spirit by supporting local charities. Donations of jackets, non-perishable foods, even blood, will be accepted throughout the day, and carolers will be there singing all along the way. Various dates and times. WaylandSquarePVD.com

Arts and History
The holidays bring out our creativity, especially here on the East Side. Take in world-class performances, see the fruits of our artists’ labor and step back into time for a Victorian Christmas.

Handcrafted Gifts
Score something fabulous and unique for everyone on your nice list at the RISD Alumni and Student Holiday Art Sale on December 10. The event, which began on campus in 1998, is now held downtown at the Rhode Island Convention Center, as it can accommodate a much larger crowd and the extra space is certainly needed to hold all 200 booths plus an estimated 3,000 shoppers.

Artists are required to be present at the event, which allows shoppers to chat with the person who made the object they’re purchasing. Participants are chosen by lottery; to be eligible, the alumni or student must be selling either handmade items or work that is fabricated in an ethical way from his or her original design. Many alums return to Providence from all over the US to participate in the sale, so you’ll see work that you won’t see anywhere else in the area any other time during the year.

What can you expect to find? There will be everything from fine art (paintings, prints and sculpture) and jewelry to home goods, toys and clothing. And you don’t have to break the bank if you don’t want to; prices range from $5 for stationary and small gift items to $5,000-plus for an original painting or piece of handcrafted furniture, with most items falling within the $20-$200 range. 10am-5pm. 1 Sabin Street. RISDAlumniSales.com

Holidays on Pointe
If there’s any one production that can be called “larger than life,” that’s definitely Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker. In fact, the set is so enormous that it requires two 18-wheeler trucks to transport it from the warehouse to the Providence Performing Arts Center. It then takes crewmembers about two days to “load in” and assemble the set. Pieces range from the oversized staircase in the interior house scene to three-dozen delicate Swarovski snowflake crystals that hang above the snow scene at the end of Act I.

All of the dancers were chosen from FBP’s resident company of 28 professionals who work and perform all year round. They devote approximately 350 rehearsal hours to Nutcracker each season, so you can bet that every last pirouette will be carried out to utter perfection. The children’s cast of 120 or so was selected from an open audition – they rehearse every weekend through the performance, which is on December 16-18. It’s likely that some of these kids will go on to pursue a career in ballet, as several of the company’s dancers started out in the very same roles.

Set to a brilliant score featuring “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Russian Dance,” both crowd favorites, this classic Tchaikovsky production is an integral part of the holidays, both here on the East Side and worldwide. $23-$85. 220 Weybosset Street. 421-2787, PPACRI.org

Victorian Vittles
The historic Lippitt House Museum is elegant and well worth a visit at any time of the year, but there’s something extra special about it come winter when – in Victorian era Christmas tradition – its exterior is dressed in live greens, its grand staircase is draped with festive garlands and its mantels are decked in twinkling splendor for the Lippitt House Holiday High Tea. There are also three gorgeous Christmas trees scattered around the building for visitors to discover, each done up in a different holiday-inspired theme.

On Sundays through December 18, the public is invited to explore the museum’s first floor, and then sit down in its stunning French-inspired drawing room to partake in an event that East Side residents and their guests enjoyed during the 1800s: a holiday high tea. The menu for this year’s tea consists of signature cocktails, sweet and savory bites as well as a large selection of teas, presented by Delsie Catering and Events. If additional space is needed, some guests might take their tea in the dramatic Moorish-inspired library. Reservations are required and recommended. $45-$65. 1pm and 4pm seating times. 199 Hope Street. 453-0688, PreserveRI.org

Cultural Traditions
Just because Christmas gets the lion’s share of attention this time of year doesn’t mean other cultural traditions are taking the month off. This year, take some time to see how others are celebrating the season.

Honoring a Higher Humanity
Mixed Magic Theatre will be performing Celebrations: An African Odyssey, an original musical written by Artistic Director Ricardo Pitts-Wiley in 1979, on December 17 at McVinney Auditorium. After taking a ten-year hiatus, Celebrations is back and better than ever before.

In March of ‘79, Pitts-Wiley welcomed a son to the world and immediately knew he wanted to write a story to give to him. “We were living in San Diego and I had a chance to do a holiday show at the theatre I was working at,” he says. “I looked for something I liked, but nothing spoke to me.” Although he had never written a song in his life, the thespian sat down and penned Celebrations. “Its essence was to show the greatness of the African people, how they managed to survive the horrors around them. This musical was something I could show to my son to say this is what your father felt and believed, and hoped for you to know.”

The plot centers on an African princess who is kidnapped from her village and sent to a slaveholding plantation in Newport. She escapes from the ship and finds herself in a community of black people who are willing to risk everything to help her get back home. (This just so happens to fall on Christmas day when everyone in Rhode Island is preoccupied with their own holiday parties and rituals.) “It’s not terribly different from A Christmas Carol,” says Pitts-Wiley. “It’s about redemption, reward and faith – about overcoming horrible conditions to find a higher humanity.” 7-8pm. 43 Dave Gavitt Way. 305-7333, MMTRI.com

The Glory of Survival
Carrying on a 17-year tradition, Mixed Magic Theatre marks the final day of Kwanzaa on January 1 with A Kwanzaa Song, a one-hour concert that mixes song and narrated story to celebrate humanity, courage, faith and family. It’s an inclusive event that all on the East Side are invited to attend.

“Kwanzaa is African American in its roots, but American in its foundation,” says Pitts-Wiley. “Started in 1965 following the Watts Riots in LA, it was about an effort to un-commercialize the holidays, and for black people to celebrate themselves while trying to share with the world the glory of our survival. Kwanzaa is about breaking bread, telling stories and talking with your community. I hope that everyone will want to participate.”

The concert will be followed by a potluck dinner of fruits, veggies, cider and other simple foods. Kids will be invited to light candles for each day of Kwanzaa, and then everyone can hug someone and wish them a happy New Year. 3pm and 7:30pm show times. Hope High School, 324 Hope Street. MMTRI.com

Carrying on Tradition
Temple Beth-El invites children in grades 6-12 to its All Teen Hanukkah Party on December 17. Teens and tweens will enjoy special programming that includes music, games, latkes and more. So put on your most festive outfit and come together in celebration of the Festival of Lights. Email Seth for more information: sfinkle@jewishallianceri.org. 7-9pm. 70 Orchard Avenue. 421-4111 x146, JewishAllianceRI.org

Spread the Joy
The Jewish Community Day School presents Mitzvahs and Miracles on December 15 at Temple Beth-El. This event, open to all, is a festive Hanukkah celebration with food, crafts and entertainment, plus a do-gooder twist: various community organizations will have stations set up so that families can participate in service projects. Think making catnip toys for the SPCA or stuffing backpacks with school supplies. Come together with friends and family for fun – and for a great cause. 4:30-7pm. 70 Orchard Avenue. 751-2470, JCDSRI.org