Pageant of Peace

The Pageant of Peace begins with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Thursday at 5 on the Ellipse, south of the White House (Metro: McPherson Square, Federal Triangle). Tickets to the opening ceremony have already been given away, but the National Christmas Tree and trees representing every state and territory can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. Musical entertainment by local choruses and bands is scheduled nightly from 6 to 8:30 weekdays, 4 to 8:30 weekends Dec. 6-30 (no performances on Dec. 24-25). Call 202-208-1631.

Holiday Tours

* Mount Vernon, the home of the first president, holds its annual holiday candlelight tours Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 8 through Dec. 15. Candlelight tour tickets are $15, $8 for children 11 and younger. Advance purchase is recommended. Regular tours of the mansion, decorated for the holidays, are held through Jan. 6. The estate is open from 9 to 4 daily, including Christmas and New Year's. Admission is $9, seniors $8.50, ages 6 through 11 $4.50, under 6 free. At the south end of the George Washington Parkway, eight miles south of Alexandria. Call 703-780-2000.

* The U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory, at 100 Maryland Ave. SW adjacent to the U.S. Capitol, offers a fantasy land with a Chocolate Chunk Mountain, Cotton Candy Corner, Candy Cane Forest, a model train display, holiday greenery and more from 10 to 5 daily, including holidays, through Jan. 5. Admission is free. Call 202-225-8333.

'The Nutcracker'

* The Alexandria Ballet presents a shortened version of "The Nutcracker" for younger children on Saturday and Sunday at noon, 1:30, 3 and 4:30 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. Performances continue through Dec. 22. Tickets are $12, $9 for children through age 16. Reservations are required. Call 703-548-0456.

* The Fairfax Ballet presents its full-length production of "The Nutcracker" Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2 and 7:30, and Sunday at 2:30 at Fairfax High School, 3500 Old Lee Hwy., Fairfax. Tickets

cost $14 to $22. Call

703-378-7706.

* The Washington Ballet is presenting its annual production of "The Nutcracker," a Washington institution for more than 40 years, at two venues. The company performs Saturday at 1 and 7 in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall at George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax. Tickets are $22 to $42 from Tickets.com. To order, call 703-218-6500 (service charges added); for information, call 703-993-8888. The show then takes the stage Dec. 6-22 at the Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets NW (Metro: Federal Triangle, Metro Center). Tickets there cost $33 to $53 from Ticketmaster. To order Warner Theatre tickets, call 202-432-7328 (service charges added); for information, call 202-783-4000.

Jewish Film Festival

Thirty-seven features, documentaries and shorts from 16 countries will be screened during the Washington Jewish Film Festival: An Exhibition of International Cinema Thursday through Dec. 15 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW, and other venues. The festival opens Thursday at 6:45 with the French romantic comedy "God Is Great, I'm Not," in the Goldman Theater at the center. Ticket prices are $15 for opening and closing night (includes wine reception), $9 evenings and weekends, $5.50 weekdays before 6. Seniors and students get a $1 discount except on opening and closing nights. For tickets, call 800-494-8497; for information, call 202-777-3248 or visit www.wjff.org.

Menorah Lighting

The lighting of a giant menorah on Sunday at 4, on the Ellipse south of the White House (Metro: Federal Triangle, McPherson Square), celebrates the Jewish holiday of Hanukah. The U.S. Army Band, featuring "The Three Cantors," will perform, and complimentary latkes and doughnuts will be served. Free. Call 202-332-5600.

Holiday Fare

* Classika Theatre presents "The Snow Queen" Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2 through Jan. 12 at the Classika Theatre in the Village at Shirlington, 4041 S. 28th St., Arlington. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Call 703-824-6200.

* The Moscow Boys Choir sings "Christmas Around the World," a program of music from England, Germany, France, Israel, Ukraine and Russia, Thursday at 7:30 at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick. Tickets cost $23 to $35. Call 301-228-2828.

Holiday Lights Take the 2.5-mile drive-through route of the Winter Festival of Lights with more than 500,000 twinkling bulbs at Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Dr., off Central Avenuue in Upper Marlboro. The display is open nightly from 5 to 9:30 through Jan. 5. Admission is $5 per car or van ( free on Dec. 25). Donations of canned goods for local food banks are encouraged. Call 301-699-2456.

Museum Shops

More than 25 museum shops, including the Freer Gallery of Art, the Textile Museum and Winterthur, will display their wares in the Museum Shops Holiday Collection by the McLean Project for the Arts, Friday and Saturday from 10 to 6 and Sunday from 11 to 5 at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Admission is $6, $3 for students 13 and older (younger free). Call

703-790-1953.

-- Compiled by Larry Fox