Christmas is coming! You can tell because FM radio has been playing holiday carols since late October.
Get into the Yuletide spirit early with a classic ballet or seasonal cocktail party, or explore the city's burgeoning culture of interactive theater. From a pub-set A Christmas Carol to a sing-along chorus to a festival that explores the darker side of Christmas, the city is hosting so many wintry diversions that you might never finish your holiday shopping.
5. The Definitive Nutcracker
The annual snowstorm of Nutcracker productions begins this week, and the most polished and professional belongs to L.A. Ballet. Set in 1912 Los Angeles, this Nutcracker is an original, choreographed by company co-artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, with set design by L.A. artist Catherine Kanner. Now in its eighth season, LAB continues to demonstrate how well it understands this city: Home theaters in Glendale, Westwood, Northridge and Redondo Beach bring ballet to you rather than forcing you into gridlocked traffic. Plus, since the company performs throughout the year, ticket income is spent onstage here, not taken back to another city, as with touring productions. LAB dancers are splendid performers who make the challenging choreography look effortless -- although, in full disclosure, we might be a bit biased: Your scribe continues to volunteer to observe the ballet from an onstage chimney. For an extensive list of the season's Nutcracker productions, check out blogs.laweekly.com/arts/dance. Alex Theatre, 216 Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 8, 2 p.m.; $30-$95, seniors, students, children 12 & younger $24-$76. (310) 998-7782, losangelesballet.org. Also at Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff Ave., Northridge; Sat., Dec. 14, 1 & 5 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15, 1 p.m.; at UCLA Royce Hall, Wstwd.; Sat.-Sun., Dec. 21-22, 1 & 5 p.m.; and at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach; Sat., Dec. 28, 1 & 5 p.m., Sun., Dec. 29, 2 p.m. --Ann Haskins
4. Hallelujah Sing-along
You've heard it in dozens of films -- that musical cue that launches when things are looking up for the protagonist, as a choir starts belting out "Hallelujah!" But though it's been ground into our pop culture subconscious, the "Hallelujah Chorus" is only a small section of George Frederic Händel's masterpiece, Messiah. First performed in 1742, the oratorio celebrates the Passion of Christ in three parts, and it has become a Christmas staple in America and Europe. Join music director Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale as they stage a Messiah Sing-Along at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Get ready to flex your vocal chords. The Chorale will provide the orchestra, professional soloists and optional sheet music, while you and more than 2,000 guests make up the rousing backing chorus. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Wed., Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.; $39-$79. (323) 850-2000, laphil.com. --Sarah Diamond
3. A Classy Cocktail Party
Somehow, the Year of the Cocktail became the Years of the Cocktail -- and now the spotlight is on the classics. But before you place your bet on whether this means a renaissance or a fad, consult the experts: During an evening of hard questions and hard alcohol, a panel of L.A. drink thinkers will discuss old-fashioneds and more in a roundtable hosted by KPCC Off-Ramp's John Rabe, called Old-Fashioned L.A.: Our Love Affair With Classic Cocktails. Inspired by the revival of the local classic cocktail scene in recent years, Krista Simmons (Laist.com), Javier Cabral (L.A. Times, Saveur), Daniel Djang (Thirsty in L.A., Art Beyond the Glass) and Naomi Schimek (U.S. Bartenders' Guild) will tackle the revival, its origins, its longevity and its best ingredients across 90 minutes of discussion recorded for future use on the air. The Virgil's bar will be open for orders throughout the night, but ask for an appletini at your own risk. This is a night for the shaken, not stirred crowd. The Virgil, 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., E. Hlywd.; Thurs., Dec. 12, 8 p.m.; free; 21 and older. SCPR.org/events. --Kelsey Whipple