The holiday season starts earlier and earlier—Chicago has already had two tree-lighting ceremonies, for Saint Nick’s sake—but the purists out there have saved up their cheer for after Turkey Day. To reward your patience, we've handpicked the season's best events and created a comprehensive holiday calendar with everything from Yuletide food and drink events to Christmas theater to nondenominational celebrations that just happen to benefit from a little snow. Ten of our top picks are below, but you can see our full, ever-updated list here.
ARTmageddon This holiday-themed group exhibition tapped 50 local, national, and international artists to create two 12x12 original works. Featuring Ben Frost, Chema Skandal, JC Rivera, and many, many more. Through 12/24, Vertical Gallery, 1016 N. Western, verticalgallery.com, free.
A Christmas Carol Aimee Levitt writes of this year's show, "Sometimes, when December comes and the days get short and cold, you crave light and warmth and comfort. The Goodman's Carol provides all that in abundance, with genuine instead of saccharine sweetness, plus some excellent special effects." Through 12/28: Tue-Thu 7:30 PM (except Thu 12/25), Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 6:30 PM, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, goodmantheatre.org, $25-$73.
Deck the Hall and Oates This is a holiday party for all lovers of Daryl Hall and John Oates (which, let's face it, is everyone). A DJ will spin the duo's classics along with the best and most hilarious pop holiday jams, and all are encouraged to look to Hall and Oates for costume inspiration for the night. Thu 12/11, 9 PM-2 AM, Cole's, 2339 N. Milwaukee, free.
Dining With Santa If you thought Santa was busy on Christmas Eve, you should see his brunch schedule. There are plenty of chances to eat pancakes with the big guy around town, including Sat 12/6, 8 AM, at the Field Museum (Sue will be there, too!); Sat 12/6, 11 AM, at the Driehaus Museum's Glitter and Gold Brunch; and Sat 12/15 and Sat 12/20, 8 AM, at the Shedd Aquarium. Not an early riser? Dinner with Santa at Macy's on Sat 12/15 might be more your speed.
Hellcab While perhaps not yet in the realm of holiday classic, Hellcab has become a local Christmas tradition in its own right. Profiles Theatre annually stages this story of a beleaguered cabdriver carting around a host of characters on Christmas Eve, and according to theater critic Tony Adler, the show—and its performers—keeps getting better with age. Through 1/11: Thu-Sat 8 PM (except Thu 12/25), Sun 7 PM, Profiles Theatre, 4139 N. Broadway, profilestheatre.org, $35.
Krampus Fest Not all celebrations of holiday cheer have to be so goddamn cheerful. Krampus Fest is the seasonal send-off to Santa's evil twin, Krampus. The daylong event includes music from DJ LowFi, German cuisine, glogg, and a Krampus parade. Sun 12/7, 11 AM-4 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, martyrslive.com, free.
Made in Chicago Market Forget waiting with bated breath to see if that package from China will ship in time for Christmas. The Made in Chicago Holiday Market features holiday items from local vendors including Forbidden Root, Bashful Owl, and Chicago Glass Collective. Walk away with gift in hand, wrap it up that night, and just enjoy kicking back while everyone else scrambles. Sat 12/20, 9 AM-7 PM, Block 37, 108 N. State, block37.com, free.
Music Box Theatre's Christmas Show Sure, holiday classics might be on TV every waking hour, but you know you're only going to catch the end again. Treat yourself to the Christmas double feature of It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas, and enjoy the movies the way they were meant to be enjoyed: in a historic theater with a bag of popcorn. 12/12-12/14, times vary, Music Box, 3733 N. Southport, musicboxtheatre.com, $13 per screening, $20 for double feature.
Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market Chicago is a lot more boring when there isn't a street fair or block party to hit every weekend. Luckily, the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market is here. Held indoors, the off-season edition of Renegade offers chilly Chicagoans the opportunity peruse some craft goodies without freezing to death. Also 12/7, Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th, renegadecraft.com, free.
ZooLights This annual winter festival, now in its 15th year, features more than 1.5 million Christmas lights, ice-sculpting demonstrations, visits with Santa, and live music. And for a little extra warmth, grab a beer at the first ever BrewLights on Wed 12/3. Through 1/4, Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr., lpzoo.org, free.