I can already smell the turkey as Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches. In fact, by the look of the shop windows, it's already here. With the holidays come lots of opportunities to share the season with friends and family and to get into the community holiday spirit.

There are a host of special events coming up at our community colleges -- Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Oakland's Laney and Merritt colleges. You'll want to put these happenings on your holiday calendar this season.

The Laney College and College of Alameda dance departments are presenting a debut performance of "Nutcracker International" at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center on the Laney College campus.

This homegrown "Nutcracker" is centered in Oakland and is a new take on an old holiday tradition. "Nutcracker International" highlights the wide range of communities and peoples found in the East Bay, including the Aztec, African American, Haitian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and LGBT communities. Choreographer Colette Eloi crafts an original version of the "Nutcracker's" snow scene using traditional Haitian dance. And in an effort to update the ethnic relevance of the various dances featured in the traditional ballet, choreographers Zak Diouf and Danny Nguyen recreate the Arabian and Chinese tea dances using traditional West African, Vietnamese and Cambodian dance themes. Narrator Mama Clara delivers an educational storyline that weaves the magical scenes together.


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Laney's culinary arts department will prepare a smorgasbord of international desserts and holiday dishes -- deliciously available in the lobby area of the theater -- to compliment the "Nutcracker International" dance suites.

Admission to this must-see event is $15 for adults and $10 for students. Admission is free, however, on Dec. 21 with a donation of a wrapped gift for a child under age 10. Tickets are available at the door one hour before show time. Santa Claus will make an appearance after the matinee show on Dec. 21. Don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the holidays and enjoy the rich and splendid diversity of the East Bay. For more information, contact artistic director Priya Shah at vshah@peralta.edu.

For you choral music fans out there (count me as one!), there will be a special holiday performance by the Oakland City Chorus (formerly the Laney College Choir) at noon on Dec. 4, also at the Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center at Laney College. For more information on this charming event and how you can become involved in the choir yourself, visit http://www.laney.edu/wp/music/choir/.

Since this is the season of giving, why not consider lending a hand to our community college students for the holidays by providing them with scholarship opportunities? The Peralta Colleges Foundation will be hosting a gala scholarship dinner on Nov. 21 at Scott's Seafood Restaurant in Oakland. Tickets for this event, which honor Merritt College's very own baseball great Joe Morgan, range from $75 to $250. Proceeds from the dinner will go to student scholarship funds. For more information, visit http://web.peralta.edu/foundation/.

I'll have more holiday treats for you next month as the Peralta Colleges continue to put the word "community" into our community colleges.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu or follow him on Twitter at jeffheyman.