One of the paradoxes of the holiday season is that there are so few activities for the people the occasion was designed for -- little kids.
But there are still a few quality offerings for little ones. The Habitot Children's Museum in Berkeley is holding a Gingerbread House Party on Dec. 21, when the tykes can decorate a giant gingerbread house with candles, cookies, sprinkles and other goodies, and the completed house will be donated to a local family shelter. Admission for the day is free.
Meanwhile, Children's Fairyland in Oakland is about to become Fairy Winterland. Every year from Dec. 14 to 23 the park is transformed by thousands of sparkling lights into a magical winter wonderland celebrating the holidays of many cultures: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year.
This year, Fairy Winterland will feature the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, puppet versions of "The Nutcracker" and Hans Christian Anderson's "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep," magicians, jugglers, fire eaters, storytellers, daily dreidel sessions, a Festival of Lights parade every evening and oodles of hot chocolate and hot cider. Plus, of course, there will be a visit every day from Santa Claus himself. Each one of Santa's little visitors will have a chance to have their pictures taken with him, give him their holiday wish lists and receive a special holiday treat.
Last, but by no means least, is "Sing You A Merry Christmas," an amazingly creative concert/sing-along/play for the 8-and-younger set starring 11 adults and two kids -- trumpet players Mercy Betraro and Nic Vamos, of El Cerrito, both students at the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley. (He's in seventh grade; she's in eighth.) The show starts with Mercy and Nic alone on stage playing a trumpet fanfare that rings through the entire cathedral, casting a spell on the audience that brings the hubbub to a hush almost immediately.
Suddenly, the audience is surrounded by dancing and singing life-size toys -- the adults in the cast -- waving ribbon sticks through and over and around the audience. Then comes a snowstorm (flashing lights), and the audience gets lost underneath a blanket of "snow" -- a white fabric that they have to cooperatively pass over the top of their heads to get out of the "snowstorm." The toys explain that they have to discover the true meaning of Christmas before they can be given out. They search for clues contained in locked boxes that open only when everyone sings the proper Christmas carol.
Finally, after all the clues are discovered, they have to be put in the correct order, and one lucky girl or boy is chosen to come out of the audience to do it. Then Mercy and Nic play another fanfare (variations on "Here Comes Santa Claus"), and out comes Santa himself to end the show.
"The show is written especially for little kids, and that's unusual," says Jennifer Ashworth, who wrote, directed and produced it with Kristen Jones. "Most times, you have to drag them along and tell them to be quiet, but this show is highly interactive. We want them to sing along."
"Sing You A Merry Christmas" will be presented twice, at 11 a.m. Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. Tickets can be reserved by calling 415-392-4400 or visiting gracecathedral.org/calendar. Merry Christmas!
Reach Martin Snapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.