It’s a Wonderful Season

Scores of holiday-themed activities warm the Bay—from radio plays to outdoor ice
Fridays on the Homefront
Ready to venture outside the house and around the Bay for a taste of satisfying holiday cheer? For starters, there are lots of outdoor skating rinks open during the holidays, including at San Francisco’s Union Square (above). Photo: Ralphman
Fridays on the Homefront
Keith Jefferds and Merrill Grant from Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s adaptation of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ as a live radio play.
Fridays on the Homefront
King of kitsch Charles Phoenix at the Mid-Century Supper Club in Alameda.

It’s not difficult to cast a mid-century mood on the holidays if you’re settling in to watch a movie at home. But where can one venture outside the house and around the Bay for a taste of satisfying holiday cheer this year?

If you’re ambitious enough to brave the Bay Area’s bustling roads and freeways, you’ll indeed find a few enjoyable seasonal activities to evoke the mid-century mood during these remaining days of December.

Atop Rotten Tomatoes’ list of best Christmas movies of course is ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1946), director Frank Capra’s masterpiece about fate and regret. If you want something more stimulating than repeated viewings of that chestnut, you might try Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s adaptation of ‘Wonderful Life’ as a live radio play. The production in El Cerrito closes this weekend (through Dec. 15) with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

As for seeking a mid-century modern bent, probably your best bet is Friday, December 14, at the Charles Phoenix book-signing event hosted in Alameda by the Mid-Century Supper Club. The event is from 5-8 p.m. in the stately, 1920s-era hall of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, 2305 Alameda Avenue.

“Holidays are so retro! I’m all about festive traditions,” Phoenix says on his website about Holiday Jubilee, his new publication with vintage photos, recipes, and entertaining ideas about holidays year-round. As America’s king of kitsch, the author hastens to add, “But I’m also a big fan of mixing it up by creating new ones!”

If you get to Alameda by 4 p.m. Saturday December 14, you can also lend a voice to the 25th annual ‘Sing-It-Yourself Messiah,’ which is free to the public at First Presbyterian Church, 2001 Santa Clara Avenue.

Across the estuary, Oakland always has holiday events rich with nostalgia, none more so than at 69-year-old Children’s Fairyland on Lake Merritt. Its Fairy Winterland is a childhood fantasy of lights, puppets, and entertainment from noon to 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through year’s end. Admission for all non-members (except infant freebies) is $12 each.