For many of us, entertaining takes on an intimate, more familial air in December, but there are always grand and open parties that also carry us through the sparkle and pop of New Year's Eve.

Dec. 3

The grand opening of the Very Special Arts Gallery at 1331 F St. NW for invited guests includes a preview of "Art Across America," its first exhibit. The gallery will represent emerging and recognized artists, especially professional artists with disabilities. Profits from art sales will support the Very Special Arts program. Tickets are $75. Call 202-628-2800. Dec. 5

Hold on to your ticket if you're a guest at the 26th annual gourmet dinner of the Big Brothers of the National Capital Area at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. One of every four tickets is a prize winner, according to Pam Early, the gourmet dinner coordinator. Tickets are $450. Call 202-789-4214.

Ron Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee; Dorothy I. Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women; and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) are the guests of honor at the United Negro College Fund's 10th Anniversary Salute to Leadership Dinner at the Sheraton Washington. Tickets start at $150; proceeds will benefit the UNCF's 41 member institutions. Call (202)737-UNCF.

Dec. 6

Singer Melissa Manchester is the entertainer at the 1990 World USO Christmas in Washington celebration at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The evening honors the late Prescott Bush (President Bush's father, who was national campaign chairman of the USO in 1942) with the USO Christmas Award; August A. Busch III with the USO Great American Award; and Keith L. Reinhard with the USO Outstanding Civic Achievement Award. Rep. Thomas J. Ridge (R-Pa.) is the emcee. Tickets to the reception and dinner are $1,000. Call 202-783-8121.

The Peace Links Congressional Wives' Peace on Earth Gala at the Capital Hilton features cocktails, dinner, a silent auction and dancing to the music of Peter Duchin and his Orchestra. Individual tickets are $250. Call 202-544-0805. Dec. 7

The Gene Donati Orchestra will provide the dance music at the 36th National Symphony Ball for 1,000 guests at the Sheraton Washington. Tickets start at $350; proceeds benefit the NSO. Call 703-276-8174. Dec 8

The Fifth Dimension is the enter- tainment for the 1990 Kidney Ball at the Hyatt Regency. Honorees are Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) for his work on the National Organ Transplant Act and Ambassador Daniel J. Terra for his involvement with the National Kidney Foundation. Tickets start at $450 per couple. Call 202-337-6600.

The 400 guests at the first Holiday Ball of the Junior Committee of the Travelers Aid Society of Washington (TAS) will be dancing to the music of the Uptown Rhythm Kings at the new Chevy Chase Pavilion. Tickets to this holiday dance for young people (24-40 years of age) are $50 in advance. Call 202-546-3120.

The 1990 Starlight Ball of the Women's Auxiliary of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington will be held at the Washington Hilton; music at this annual benefit will be by Center Stage. Tickets start at $600 a couple. Call 301 340-1590. Dec. 9

The annual "Night of Trees" benefit for the D.C. chapter of Special Olympics -- a party at which trees that have been decorated by area florists, merchants and designers are auctioned, as are donated gifts -- is at the Ramada Renaissance Techworld. Tickets to the party for invited guests are $50. The decorated trees are on display in the hotel lobby through Dec. 17. Call 202-544-7770.

Dec. 13

A special preview of the film "Cyrano de Bergerac" starring Gerard Depardieu will be shown by the French-American Chamber of Commerce at the French Embassy. A reception follows. Tickets are $20 before Dec. 10 and $25 afterward. Call 202-775-0256. Dec. 14

Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and guests are invited to the Sheraton National in Arlington for the annual banquet, this year commemorating the 46th anniversary of that World War II battle. Proceeds benefit the Battle of the Bulge Foundation's campaign to fund a gallery at the Fort George G. Meade U.S. Army Museum. Tickets are $40. Call Dorothy Davis at 301-881-0356. Dec. 16

The Beethoven Society will celebrate Beethoven's 220th birthday at a Jause, a Viennese tea party, at the Capital Hilton. The evening features dancing to David Wright's Band and "one-man trio" George Gerich. Tenor Fausto Chiapinelli and dancers David and Sharon Savoy, who are world cabaret champions, are also on the entertainment bill. Tickets are $38.50 for members and $45 for guests. Call 202-363-8328.

The 10th annual Christmas Benefit -- a dinner dance -- for the Choral Arts Society of Washington at the Mayflower Hotel follows the chorus's Christmas concert performance at 7 p.m. at the Kennedy Center. Tickets to the concert and benefit are $175 and $250. Tickets to the concert only range in price from $6 to $25.50. Call 202-244-3669.Dec. 26

Jazz great Cab Calloway is the entertainer at the Auto Show Gala to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Tickets to the gala at the Grand Hyatt start at $150. The gala is held in connection with the 49th annual National Capital Area International Auto Show at the Washington Convention Center, which also opens Dec. 26. Call 202-337-3404 for tickets to the gala; for show tickets call 301-670-1100. Dec. 31

The Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, an agency that provides services to the mentally disabled in the Washington area, is the beneficiary of the Washington Charitable Fund's New Year's Eve Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel. Jack Dennis and his orchestra will entertain at this cocktail party, seated dinner and dance, which also features a Monte Carlo casino, a silent auction and a midnight desert buffet with champagne. Tickets start at $250. Call 202-857-0060.

The AIDS Action Council's New Year's Eve gala at the Washington Hilton features dinner and "a New York style discotheque." Tickets to both are $125; tickets to the dancing only, which begins at 10 p.m., are $40. Proceeds benefit the AIDS Action Council. Call 202-293-2886.

Bill Mayhugh and WMAL radio will be broadcasting live from the New Year's Eve Gala given by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union for the Leukemia Society of America at the Washington Court Hotel. The gala is mostly an invitation-only event, but there are a few tables open to the general public. Tickets start at $300 a couple. Dave Detwiler and his band Prelude, and Paul Scimonelli and his band Streetlife will provide nonstop musical entertainment. Call David Timko at 703-960-1100.