* The City of Alexandria opens its celebration of the holidays with its annual tree-lighting ceremony Friday at 7 in Market Square, 301 King St. Mayor William D. Euille will speak, and local choral ensembles will perform, followed by a community singalong. Call 703-838-4844.
* The National Pageant of Peace, with decorated trees representing every state and territory, opens with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree Thursday at 5 on the Ellipse, south of the White House (Metro: McPherson Square, Federal Triangle). The ceremony includes entertainment by Ricky Skaggs, Maya Angelou, CeCe Winans and the U.S. Navy Band. Tickets for reserved seats have been distributed, but standees are welcome. Starting Dec. 2, the pageant will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. through New Year's Day. Local choruses and bands will entertain most evenings through Dec. 23 starting at 6. Call 202-208-1631.
The Lights Are On
See dancing Santas, flying reindeer and hundreds of other illuminated displays, both animated and stationary, at the region's colorful holiday light shows:
* The 19th annual Winter Festival of Lights, more than one million lights in 2.5 miles of holiday figures, is open nightly from 5 to 9:30 through Jan. 1 at Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro. Admission is $5 per car or van (more for commercial vehicles); on Dec. 25 it's free. Call 301-699-2456 (TDD: 301-699-2544).
* Lights on the Bay, a two-mile route through more than 70 scenes, is open nightly from 5 to 10 through Jan. 1 at Sandy Point State Park, at 1100 E. College Pkwy., off U.S. 50 Exit 32 outside Annapolis. Admission is $12 per vehicle. Call 443-481-3161.
* The Garden of Lights, a half-mile stroll past a kaleidoscope caterpillar, a flying cardinal, swimming geese and other creatures, is open on announced dates from 5:30 to 9 (last entry at 8:30) through Jan. 8 at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. Admission is $15 per car or van. Pedestrian access is not allowed. This week, the garden is open Friday through Sunday and Thursday. Days of operation vary weekly. Call 301-962-1453.
* Tour nearly 400 displays with an enchanted-forest theme, including Teddy Bear Land and Victorian Village, during the 3.5-mile Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Rd.,
Gaithersburg. On Fridays and Saturdays, the festival is open from 6 to 10 and admission is $12 per car or van; on other nights (except Dec. 25) it's open from 6 to 9 and admission is $10. Proceeds benefit the Red Cross, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and other charities. Call 301-258-6350.
* The 12th annual Symphony of Lights, a 1.4-mile drive through more than 70 light sculptures, is open through Jan. 1 in Symphony Woods, adjacent to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. The entrance is on Broken Land Parkway. The show, a fundraiser for Howard County General Hospital, will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 11 and Sundays through Thursdays from 6 to 10 through Dec. 8; afterward, it's open every night from 6 to 11. Admission is $15 per car or van. Call 410-740-7666.
'Nutcracker' on the Potomac
The Washington Ballet opens its interpretation of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," choreographed by Artistic Director Septime Webre, Thursday at the Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets NW (Metro: Metro Center). This version is set in a Georgetown mansion and along the Potomac, with characters whose resemblance to George Washington, King George III, the Red Coats and the Continental Army is no accident. Performances continue through Dec. 24. Tickets cost $29 to $72 from Ticketmaster. To order, call 202-397-7328; for information, call 202-783-4000.
Pictures of Jewish Life
The 16th annual Washington Jewish Film Festival will screen 40 features, documentaries and short subjects from the United States and eight other countries at five venues starting Thursday and continuing through Dec. 11. The opening show is the French/Israeli "Live and Become," the story of an African boy who manages to leave a refugee camp and immigrate to Israel by pretending to be an Ethiopian Jew, Thursday at 6:45 at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. Tickets cost $20 and include a post-show reception. Tickets to most shows cost $10 evenings and weekends, $6 weekday afternoons. For tickets, call Box Office Tickets, 800-494-8497; for information, call 202-777-3248 or visit www.wjff.org. See story on Page 48.
One-Stop Museum Shop
Explore garden ornaments from Monticello, elegant scarves from the Textile Museum and goodies from the Freer Gallery of Art, Winterthur and other regional museum shops at the Museum Shops Holiday Collection Friday and Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from 11 to 5 at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Admission is $6. Proceeds help support the McLean Project for the Arts. Call 703-790-0123 or 703-790-1953.
Mazurkas and More
The National Ballet of Poland, touring with 90 performers and 1,600 costumes, celebrates the traditional music and dance of its native land Sunday at 4 at Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW (Metro: Foggy Bottom-GWU). Tickets cost $30 to $50, with discounts for seniors and students, from Ticketmaster. To order, call 202-397-7328; for information, call 202-994-6800.
Songs of the Season
Star Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Washington-born soprano Denyce Graves headline "A Royal Christmas," an evening of holiday songs and music, Thursday at 8 at MCI Center, 601 F St. NW (Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown). They will share the stage with 175 dancers, singers and musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the Westminster Concert Choir, the Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet and other international ensembles. Tickets cost $55 to $178 from Ticketmaster. To order, call 202-397-7328; for information, call 202-628-3200.
-- Compiled by Barry Barriere