Think about it this way: From Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, the performing arts are about as predictable as some short-sleeve weather during those same six weeks in Austin.
Like holiday specials on TV, onstage seasonal classics allow us to relax our minds and open our hearts.
Trust me, we need the balm and succor.
For the past 30 years, my list of top Austin holiday performing arts has changed almost not at all. Sure, new artistic groups and leaders spark fresh traditions. And the city's legacy companies get better and better at time-honored material.
Here are a few options for 2022 that will sound mostly familiar, unless you are new to town.
Where can I hear some great holiday music?
Let's start off with a holiday newcomer: The Austin Symphony presents "Sounds of the Season." The orchestra's brass, string and woodwind ensembles will appear all over town during December. The venues include Pan American Recreation Center, Asian American Resource Center, Laguna Gloria, Capitol Rotunda, Austin Central Library and George Washington Carver Museum. The holiday tunes are free. Info: austinsymphony.org.
On Dec. 6, the entire orchestra partners with Chorus Austin for a full staging of Handel's "Messiah," including the triumphant "Hallelujah Chorus." It plays for one night only: Dec. 6 at Riverbend Centre in West Austin. Info: austinsymphony.org.
If you want to feel like a part of an open, smart, kind version of Austin that seems to be slipping away, take part in "Conspirare Christmas." Leading the pop, jazz, Broadway and world-music songs with Conspirare, the city's professional choir, will be artistic director Craig Hella Johnson. The Austin performance is at the Long Center on Dec. 5. Additional concerts can be heard in Houston, Victoria and Uvalde. Info: conspirare.org.
The 1965 TV classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" featured a jazzy score by Vince Guaraldi. Each year, Michele Schumann from the Austin Chamber Music Center leads a live trio rendition. Even without the heartwarming animated characters, this concert will make you feel warm and fuzzy. Three performances can be heard at Stateside Theater on Dec. 3. Info: austintheatre.org.
The Austin Gay Men's Chorus, more polished than ever, will sing holiday songs along with more worldly tunes for a holiday show Dec. 2-4 at First Baptist Church of Austin. Given the recent mass shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, I expect this to be an emotionally powerful experience for the musicians and the community. Info: atxgmc.org.
What if I prefer seasonal stage plays?
It's not really Christmas without Charles Dickens' novella about the the redemption of Scrooge and the modern meaning of the holiday. Zach Theatre and director Dave Steakley have a doozy of "A Christmas Carol" in store for you. It includes jaw-dropping spectacle, top-notch singing and a starring performance from Austin leading man Marc Pouhé. Add recent hit songs to reverential selections through Dec. 31 at Topfer Theatre at Zach. Info: zachtheatre.org.
Based in Williamson County, Penfold Theatre Company has made a speciality of live radio versions based on beloved stories. This year, it's "A Christmas Carol Classic Radiocast," performed Dec. 8-17 at Old Settlers Association of Williamson County, then again Dec. 22-23 at the Driskill Hotel in Austin. Info: penfoldtheatre.org.
Surely, you've got a 'Nutcracker' or four?
Consider this: Ballet Austin has been performing "The Nutcracker" for 60 years. It's one of the longest-running versions of this supreme dance fantasy in the country. Tens of thousands of delighted children and adults attend each year to hear Tchaikovsky's magnificent score and to see top-notch dancers execute artistic director Stephen Mill's majestic rendition. Catch it Dec. 3-23 at the Long Center. Info: balletaustin.org.
Round Rock-based Metamorphosis Dance Ensemble stages a sweet, revisionist version of "The Nutcracker" each year. Don't expect the scale of Ballet Austin's outing, but do anticipate some very fine dancing and acting. See it Dec. 18-20 at Boyd Vance Theater at the Carver Center. Info: metamorphosisdance.org.
Ventana Ballet puts a jazzy and interactive twist on "The Nutcracker" with its inimitable "The Watchmaker's Song" at the Neill-Cochran House Museum on Dec. 8-17. The show also tours to the Ingenhuett on High in Comfort. Info: ventanaballet.com.
The Vortex brings back the amusing "The Muttcracker (Sweet!)," or "Circus Chickendog’s family-friendly dog and circus holiday fun." Use your imagination when the trained rescue dog show returns Dec. 15-Jan. 1. Always a good idea at one of the city's most innovative theaters. Info: vortexrep.org.
I should point out that there are several other versions of "The Nutcracker," mostly associated with schools and dance academies in town. You might want to try something new this year.
Any holiday options that don't fit these categories?
Leave it to Tapestry Dance, the city's best rhythm troupe, to devise something completely fresh for the holidays. This year, it is "The Precious Present 2022: The Jazz Element." Different elements of Austin's art ecosystem participate in this liberating show, Dec. 17-18 at Ballet Austin's Austin Ventures Studio Theatre. Info: www.tapestry.org.
This one is winking at me: The Austin Symphony will perform John Debney's score for the beloved movie "Elf" while the movie rolls on the big screen for its "Elf in Concert." Get ready to giggle during this pop series event at the Long Center on Dec. 15. Info: austinsymphony.org.
Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Where to see Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, holiday arts in Austin