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The best things to do in the D.C. area the week of Dec. 2-8

Festively decorated boats parade past the Wharf and Old Town Alexandria on Saturday. (Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria)

Thursday, Dec. 2

Downhaul at DC9: Downhaul makes feeling lost and lonely on this Earth seem like a journey worth taking. The Richmond emo quartet tackles a dilemma so many 20-somethings face: The future is scary, and how do you proceed when someone you love is unable to make sense of that murky path alongside you? Downhaul’s latest album “Proof” can shift from country twang to triumphant rock in the same song, driven by its patient guitars and lurching drums. Frontman Gordon Phillips’s nasal drawl tries to untangle the aftermath of facing the dilemma in tracks such as “Eyesight”: “But if I lost my way/ And we splintered at the frame/ There’s not a second I would change/No, I would love you all the same.” 8 p.m. $12.

Holiday Movies at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery: The attractions at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery right now are liquid pleasures: spiced Gingerbread Stout, malty Winter Warmer, bourbon barrel-aged Chocolate Mint Stout. But if you need another reason to go, holiday movies will be shown on Thursday evenings in December, including “Home Alone” (Dec. 2) and “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (Dec. 16). Movies are shown in a heated tent, and firepit tables are available in the open-air beer garden outside the Halethorpe brewery. Thursdays in December at 7:30 p.m. Free.

Your favorite holiday events are back: A day-by-day guide to the most festive time of year

Last Take Time Thursday at Anacostia Community Museum: The final installment in the “Take Time Thursday” series means one more opportunity to slow down and practice wellness. This workshop’s guest is educator and artist Sage Morgan-Hubbard, who will teach virtual attendees how to make self-care boxes. All you need is a plain or decorative box and items that make you happy — a reminder that there’s light to be found during times of uncertainty and stress. You can also make a box for a loved one, just in time for the holiday season. 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Free.

Oh Gaydel Gaydel Gaydel Hanukkah Happy Hour at Pitchers: The Edlavitch DCJCC is one of the groups behind this annual happy hour, which brings LGBTQ Jews together for mixing, mingling and lighting the menorah. Register to take advantage of drink specials. Proof of vaccination is required to enter the bar. 6 to 9 p.m. Free.

Festival of Laughs at the D.C. Improv: If you thought the age of prank call comedy peaked with the Jerky Boys, Rachel Feinstein and Jessica Kirson are ready to prove you wrong. The two comedians have serious chops — Feinstein was a finalist on “Last Comic Standing” — and they teamed up earlier this year for the prank album “The Call Girls,” now streaming on Spotify and other services. Now they’re joining forces again for a dual-headline Hanukkah show at the D.C. Improv. 7:30 p.m. $30.

Friday, Dec. 3

Heurich House Christkindlmarkt: The annual German-style Christmas market in the walled garden of the historical Heurich House Museum in Dupont Circle is expanding this year, taking over part of New Hampshire Avenue NW to make room for additional local makers — 35 in all. Sip spiced gluhwein or a glass of Senate Beer, the re-created version of a Heurich Brewing favorite from the early 20th century, while browsing tents full of jewelry, cards, candles, chocolate and other giftable treats. (This year’s new “Christmas Cheer” ticket includes an adult beverage as well as admission.) There are crafts and games for children on Saturday and Sunday, as well as food trucks. 4 to 8 p.m. Also Dec. 4 from noon to 8 p.m., and Dec. 5 from noon to6 p.m. $2-$19.

Winterfest at Wunder Garten: Now in its fifth year, Wunder Garten’s Winterfest has become a destination bar during holiday season, thanks to a packed schedule of events, including ugly sweater contests and the Night of 1,000 Santas, and a number of outdoor firepits and tables. Look for Sunday yappy hours with treats and pupucinnos for dogs, and $5 beers for humans from noon to 3 p.m.; trivia contests on Monday at 7 p.m.; and Tuesday night screenings of holiday movies. The season kicks off Friday with live music and the debut of a hot cocktail menu with spiked hot cider and cocoa. If you want to bring some holiday cheer home, visit the on-site tree lot, the Giving Tree, which supports homeless outreach projects in NoMa. Open 3 to 11 p.m. Friday; events continue through Dec. 23. Free.

Saturday, Dec. 4

National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse: The National Christmas Tree has been a fixture on the Ellipse since 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit the first decorated tree, accompanied by performances from a choir and members of the Marine Band. This year’s ceremony — hosted by LL Cool J and featuring musical guests H.E.R., Juanes and Chris Stapleton — takes place on Dec. 2, but the tree site opens to the public on Dec. 4, along with the surrounding trees marking states and territories, and CBS is airing the lighting ceremony on Dec. 5. Open daily through Jan. 1. Free.

Holiday parades: Some people might think the most important parade took place last Thursday, but this Saturday is the high point of holiday parade season, with events taking place on land and on the water. It’s hard to imagine a more festive place than the Potomac River, which is set aglow thanks to holiday boat parades in Old Town Alexandria (5:30 p.m.) and at the Wharf (7 p.m.). Dozens of brightly lit, festively decorated vessels participate, and there are dockside activities, too: In Alexandria, kids can write letters to Santa and make holiday ornaments while adults visit a beer garden or hot chocolate bar. The Wharf offers fireworks, s’mores around campfires and photos with Santa. On dry land, the big Christmas in Middleburg Parade has sold all its parking passes, and organizers say anyone who arrives without one “will not be able to park” in town. Alternatives include the Scottish Christmas Walk through Alexandria with marching groups, vintage cars and pipe and drum bands (11 a.m.) and Manassas’s 75th annual Christmas Parade, featuring marching bands, floats, balloons and around 2,000 participants (10 a.m.).

Holiday markets: This weekend is packed with opportunities to finish your seasonal shopping. A few ideas: At least 65 vendors are setting up for the Dupont Circle Holiday Pop-Up on Saturday afternoon, turning Connecticut Avenue, P Street and 17th Street NW into the city’s biggest sidewalk sale. The circle itself will host a photo booth and snacks, while Dupont Underground holds 20 vendors. The Maydan Holiday Market takes its inspiration from the Florida Avenue restaurant’s name, which means “gathering place” in multiple languages. The large patio is turning into a marketplace with food and drink vendors as well as other gifts. The Park View Holiday Market brings dozens of vendors to Hook Hall over three consecutive Saturdays, taking the place of the indoor Park View farmers market. (The lineup changes each weekend, so multiple visits might be in order.) Note that Hook Hall and its beer garden are welcoming to dogs and kids. Around two dozen vendors fill Fairfax’s Old Town Square during the Old Town Fairfax Holiday Market between Friday and Sunday. In addition to shopping, there are family and pet photo ops with Santa, and, on Saturday afternoon, live holiday music and caroling before the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree.

Where to find holiday markets around the D.C. area

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington Holiday Concert at the Lincoln Theatre: The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s 2020 spring concert was canceled early in the pandemic, and the 40-year-old ensemble has spent the ensuing months organizing virtual performances, including the popular holiday concert, which included song-and-dance numbers from previous years. But the Gay Men’s Chorus is ready to return to live concerts, beginning with this cabaret-style show that mixes high-energy production numbers — think drag queens and tap-dancing elves — with more intimate performances by its smaller ensembles, including the GenOUT Youth Chorus. Proof of vaccination is required to attend. 8 p.m. Also Dec. 11 at 3 and 8 p.m. and Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. $25-$65.

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ at Washington National Cathedral: Tis the season for George Frideric Handel, whose “Messiah” will be heard from local arts centers to the Kennedy Center in coming weeks. But few concert halls can match the awe-inspiring grandeur of Washington National Cathedral, where the Washington National Cathedral Choir and Baroque Orchestra join forces to present the holiday favorite. The Saturday lunchtime performance is a shortened version, designed for families whose children might not be able to sit still for the entire show. Noon (family performance) and 4 p.m. Also Sunday at 4 p.m. $20-$95.

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long From Home: While the vast majority of holiday events have returned in person this year, Wolf Trap’s annual Holiday Sing-A-Long, which brought hundreds of carolers to the Filene Center, has chosen to remain virtual. Warm up a mug of hot cocoa and settle in front of your TV for performances of seasonal tunes by the U.S. Marine Band, with special guests the Pat McGee Band, Laura Benanti and David Finckel and Wu Han. A second virtual performance with different musicians will stream on Dec. 18. 4 p.m. Free.

Virtual Nutcracker Family Celebration at American Art Museum: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and Washington Ballet combine forces for a magical, virtual party celebrating the wonder of “The Nutcracker.” Former Radio City Rockette DeMoya Watson Brown drops by for a story time reading of “The Nutcracker,” and Washington Ballet School instructor Margaret Williamson leads an interactive ballet master class fit for the whole family. Tchaikovsky’s score grounds the program and gets everyone into the spirit of “Nutcracker” season. 10 a.m. Free.

Torpedo Factory Holiday Festival: Filing the space between this weekend’s parades and markets is the Torpedo Factory’s celebration: Browse three floors of artist studios looking for the perfect gift before heading outside to watch Alexandria’s boat parade. But there’s much more here, including live music, pop-up drinks and Santa arriving by fireboat. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free.

Auto Lola at Rhizome: Auto Lola makes music for the genre-less present and the who-knows future. Scrolling through the musician’s SoundCloud uncovers a swath of experimental music based in hip-hop and electronic dance, but with elements drawn from pop, noise and beyond, where singsong vocals are processed into Auto-Tuned coos and chipmunked chirps before being bathed in warm synths and blow-dried with clattering percussion. He cites mainstream artists like Young Thug as an influence, and that’s definitely in the mix, but so are loops from the frenetic sounds of gabber, a hard-edge style of techno that he came across on YouTube. Whatever the algorithm serves up, Auto Lola returns, with his own spin on the ball. 7 p.m. $10.

Auto Lola is making experimental music for the present and the future

Lovelytheband at the 9:30 Club: The 2016 song “Broken” put Lovelytheband, featuring vocalist Mitchy Collins, guitarist Jordan Greenwald and drummer Sam Price, on the mainstream map. Since then, the group has released two albums, most recently “Conversations With Myself About You” in 2020. This definitively lowercase band plays in more ’80s inspired synths this second time around. The song “Waste” feels immediately joyful but the sometimes distant-sounding vocals tell a different story. In the chorus, Collins sings, “Mixing glitter with my tears/ as my inhibitions disappear,” giving a gloomy story to a dance-friendly track. Almost all of Lovelytheband’s songs are fun at the start, until the lyrics remind you of the inevitable doom love brings. 7 p.m. $30.

Movember Pig Roast at Little Miss Whiskeys: Movember has ended, and most of the ridiculous mustaches grown for men’s health charities have been shaved away. But the team behind the annual H Street Movemberfest is hosting its seventh annual Movemberfest Pig Roast at Little Miss Whiskey’s, complete all-you-can-eat pig and all-you-can-drink DC Brau beers. Throw in a fundraising raffle that includes gift certificates to Pizzeria Paradiso, 2 Fifty Texas BBQ and Game Kastle as well as Maryland basketball tickets, and you’ve got a solid afternoon for a great cause. 3 p.m. $65.

Sunday, Dec. 5

Glen Echo Park Hanukkah Celebration: Children’s theater is the centerpiece of Glen Echo Park’s Hanukkah celebration. Tickets include admission to a choice of the Puppet Co.’s “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins”; Adventure Theatre MTC’s “Winterfest,” a trio of short plays including “Uri & Ora Light the Menorah,” “Connection” and “Cranky Penguin”; or both. The former amusement park’s outdoor bumper car pavilion hosts a Hanukkah party with arts and crafts, live music and the lighting of a menorah. Plan ahead: Tickets must be purchased before noon on Saturday. 2 to 5:30 p.m. $5-$30.

‘A Tale of Winter’ at Suns Cinema: The French film is the second in the “Tales of the Four Seasons” series by director Éric Rohmer (and obviously, the winter installment in the series). The film, released in 1994, follows a woman having an affair with her boss and a librarian, though her heart lies with a different man she met years ago. Washington Post critic praised the film in 1994, describing how the scenes “unfold with the mundane, episodic quality of everyday life” and quips, “Yes, this is a French movie.” 6 p.m. $10.

Tuesday, Dec. 7

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at Capital One Hall: A live-action version of the beloved holiday TV special finds Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang exploring the true meaning of the season, set to the music of Vince Guaraldi, at the brand-new Capitol One Hall in McLean. Proof of vaccination is required to attend. 7:30 p.m. $39.50-$69.50.

Alma Thomas and the Space Race at the Phillips Collection: Artist Alma Thomas had an interest in space travel — a passion that eventually made its way into her paintings. While she worked, Thomas listened to multiple space missions recordings. Curators Carolyn Russo and Matt Shindell and curatorial fellow Cynthia Hodge-Thorne discuss Thomas’s artistic responses to the Space Race in this virtual and in-person event. 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Free.

Wednesday, Dec. 8

NSO Ugly Sweater Concert at the Anthem: It’s the most wonderful — and tackiest — night of the year at the Anthem, where members of the National Symphony Orchestra perform classic holiday melodies while wearing ugly holiday sweaters. Naturally, everyone in the audience is urged to do the same. This program is targeted at those who love orchestral music and the seasonal spirit but are put off by the formality of attending a concert at the Kennedy Center, making for a very special atmosphere. This is a seated performance, and proof of vaccination is required to attend. 7:30 p.m. $15-$30.

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting at Union Station: Each December, the people of Norway present Washington D.C. in gratitude for this county’s help during and after World War II. The tree-lighting ceremony at Union Station is in-person again this year, and includes performances by Norwegian-Brazilian jazz singer Charlotte Dos Santos and local chamber music ensemble the C Street Collective. 5 p.m. Free.

The Spirits of the Holidays at the Columbia Room: Rum, brandy and aquavit play starring roles in holiday cocktails, even if two of the three spirits don’t get much love through the rest of the year. Columbia Room owner and cocktail author Derek Brown explains how to use the trio to make Yule Glogg, Hot Buttered Rum and other holiday drinks, while participants get to sample three cocktails and holiday snacks. This is part of a series of drink classes at the Columbia Room this month; another on Dec. 15 focuses on nonalcoholic cocktails. 6 p.m. $80.

Festivus Celebration at Rustico Ballston: Rustico has teamed with the U.S. Marine Corps again this year to host Toys for Tots drives at both locations. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to this kickoff celebration, which features 20 seasonal drafts, such as Dupont’s Avec Les Bons Voeux and Hardywood’s Christmas Morning Gingerbread Stout, and a “Seinfeld”-inspired menu. (Think “These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty” and “A Bag of Pennies for Your Calzone.") The specials are offered all day. The party heads to Rustico’s Alexandria location the following night. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free.