Many Maryland arts groups have special holiday programs planned for this month:

The University of Maryland Chorus under Paul Traver will open the Christmas season with a midnight concert tonight in the student union grand ballroom of the College Park campus. For information on the concert, which is free and open to the public, call 454-2501.

On Sunday, from 2 till 5 p.m., the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville will sponsor a Hanukah Family Celebration. For information on the celerbation, which will include a production of "Happy Hanukah, Charlie Brown," and traditional treats and games, call 881-0100. For Children

Several holiday presentations are designed especially for children.

Before its engagement at Ford's Theater in the District, the Patchwork Puppets, a troupe of life-sized puppets, will perform on the afternoons of Dec. 17 and 18 at the Montgomery Players Playhouse in Gaithersburg. For information call 948-6669.

On Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons from Dec. 2 through 18 Silver Spring Stage will present its version of "Snow White" at its theater in Silver Spring. It will also perform at Prince George's Publick Playhouse on Dec. 27. For details call 434-7451.

The Palisades Theater Company, a professional touring group, will perform Oscar Wilde's play for children, "Star Child," on Dec. 10 in Bowie, Dec. 12 in Bethesda and Dec. 13 in Lanham. For information call 229-4500.

The Maryland Youth Ballet's holiday program, a ballet entitled the "Enchanted Clock," is planned as an entertainment for the entire family. For information on performances to be held at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda on Dec. 28-31 call 657-4253 or 654-9547.

Prince George's Civic Opera will be making its annual holiday tour in the Maryland area Dec. 10 through 21 with Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." This year the company will end its tour with a Dec. 22 performance at the White House. For Maryland locations call 277-220, ext. 342.

On Dec. 17 at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Prince George's Symphony will present "Something Special for Children," featuring the Maryland Ballet in highlights from "The Nutcracker." For details on performances, which will take place at Prince George's Community College, call 277-2200, ext. 342. Music

December is not complete without the music of Handel's "Messiah." The Southern Maryland Choral Society will perform the Christmas portion of this classic plus Handel's equally famous "Hallelujah Chorus" at several Maryland locations Dec. 3-11. Of particular note is the society's "Messiah Sing-In" Dec. 10 in Oxon Hill and its Dec. 4 Publick Playhouse performance, which will include an interpretor for the deaf. For details call 868-1544.

As part of its sixth annual Festival of Lights the Greenbelt recreation department is sponsoring two Christmas concerts at the town's youth center on Dec. 11, one by the Greenbelt Concert Band at 3 p.m. and the other by the Greenbelt Choral Arts Society at 7:30 p.m. For information on these and other festival events, which include a craft show Dec. 2-4 and a toy exchange, call 474-6878.

The Rockville Concert Band will present a free family Christmas concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 11 in the family Christmas concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 11 in the town's civic center. On Dec. 2, also at the Civic Center, Rockville Little Theater will open its December musical, "The Fantasticks," to be followed at 11 p.m. by its annual Christmas party. For details call 762-9230.

Also in Rockville at the Fine Art Theater of Montgomery College, Christmas music will be included in the Dec. 7 concert at 8 p.m. by the college orchestra and chorus as well as the Dec. 11 concert at 3 p.m. by the college and ensembles and chamber singers. For details call 762-0636.

Dec. 2-18 the Adelphians will present "Here's Love," Maredith Wilson's musical adaptation of "Miracle on 3-4th Street." For details on the performances in Adelphi and a Dec. 18 Publick Playhouse performance call 577-9388 or 872-7955. Galleries

For original and unusual gifts, the area's art galleries are well worth a visit. Among those with special holiday shows are Tomorrow's Sunrise in Kensington, telephone 933-6506, and Gallery on the Park in Tokoma Park. 270-6633.

The Bethesda Art Gallery, 7590 Norfolk Ave., is featuring reasonably priced prints which owner Betty Minor Duffy has collected all year for this December gift-giving show. Call 656-6665 for details.

The A.S. Smull Gallery's new show, "Art You Can Really Get Into," offers gift ideas of fantasy clothing and accessories that range from colored backpacks to crocheted berets. For information on this Kensington gallery call 946-6262. Also in Kensington, on Dec. 16 the Plum Gallery will open its show of small works for gift giving entitled "Art in Miniature." For details on the miniatures as well as the Plum's current show of hand blown glass and applique call 933-0222.

On Dec. 4, from 2 to 5 p.m. the Laurel Art Guild will present its annual Christmas exhibit of works by members at the Montpelier Mansion Complex in Laurel. Also on Dec. 4, from 2 to 6 p.m. Glen Echo Park Gallery will open its December group show, "Holiday Giving."

On Dec. 7 and 8 the University of Maryland Student Union will sponsor its annual Christmas arts and crafts fair, which is open to the public free of charge. Carols

The Christmas season is not complete without caroling. A new twist is offered by the Marlboro Recreation Council for those singers in the Marlboro area who would like to improve the quality of their neighborhood sing. By calling 952-1947 groups can arrange for a choral director to work with them in perfecting their harmonies.