ALAMEDA -- December has arrived and with it thoughts of celebrating with friends, family and, for those who've been good, Santa Claus.

With small-town values, Alameda is ready with events that will light the tree and invite Santa along; home tours and gift boutiques that offer glitter and goodies; choral music and ballet performances to raise the roof and the spirit; circling ice skates; a street alight and bedecked with holiday fun; and a nature center ready to remind everyone of the true gifts of the holiday season.

City-sponsored events

Christmas light displays are seen at Darren Roach’s residence on Thompson Avenue in Alameda, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. The short street is
Christmas light displays are seen at Darren Roach's residence on Thompson Avenue in Alameda, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. The short street is known as "Christmas Lane" during the holidays, and the displays can be seen through New Year's Eve. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Festivities begin Saturday with the Mayor's Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony with performances by the Alameda Community Band, Oakland Youth Chorus, Dancing Christmas Trees and the Mistle Tones. A visitor from the North Pole will be on hand to distribute candy canes to you-know-who.

The 12th annual breakfast with Santa will take place Dec. 14 with tasty food coupled with arts and crafts and the never-miss photo opportunity. During the final days before Christmas, Dec. 21-22, Santa will visit Alameda homes to hand out candy canes and stay for a special chat to hear last minute gift wishes.

Home tours and boutiques


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There's a full day of festivities Dec. 14 at the 43rd Annual Alameda Holiday Home Tour benefiting Alameda Family Services. The fun-filled day includes beautifully decorated homes to tour; a gift boutique with handcrafted jewelry, clothing, wreaths and more; the gourmet shop and Texas-style raffle; and a holiday tea dessert to top it all off.

Alamedans have two local boutiques to cross holiday gift needs off their list. On Saturday, Island Cat Resources and Adoption (ICRA) offers gifts, decorations, jewelry, cards, gift wrap, baked items and more, all at prices well below retail. Support the organization that works with the community's homeless cats. The following week, Dec. 14, there's a Vintage Jewelry and Artisan Holiday Boutique Shopping Party at which buying vintage jewelry and handcrafted gifts is accompanied by music, pool and ping-pong.

Bead Inspirations is hosting an introduction class on working with diamond glaze for those who want to turn their memories into personalized ornaments. Learn to place photographs and cutouts on pendants for your tree or to give away as gifts.

Outdoor holiday fun

Head to the beach to tie up the skates and join the crowd at South Shore Center's Ice Rink with its 3,000 square feet of ice-chilling fun. It's hard to go wrong with its central location, nearby amenities and personal "bobby" to maintain balance.

When the sky darkens, the in place to be starting Saturday is Bay Area-famous Christmas Tree Lane on Thompson Avenue, where everyone goes full-out with twinkling lights, "The Nightmare Before Christmas," snowmen and sleighs, Charlie Brown, the Grinch and even a live Santa. Going strong since 1938, this is a tradition that shouldn't be missed.

Holiday music shows and 'The Nutcracker'

Three choral performances welcome the holiday season in Alameda. Celebrate one of choral music's greatest masters, Benjamin Britten, with "Sacred and Profane" on Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Alameda. Enjoy the chamber chorus perform Britten's rich array of a cappella music for the holiday season, including "A Boy was Born" and "Hymn to St. Cecilia."

On Sunday, Christ Episcopal Church hosts Soli Deo Gloria's "A Jazzy Little Christmas." The Bay Area-auditioned choir dedicated to performing masterworks of sacred repertoire in a concert setting invites the public to begin the holiday season with an uplifting note as they perform newly arranged versions of Christmas favorites, including Bob Chilcott's "A Little Jazz Mass."

Alameda's "19th Annual Sing-It-Yourself Messiah" takes place Dec. 14 at Immanuel Lutheran Church. The singalong is free and open to all music lovers. Add your voice to the Christmas section and hallelujah chorus of George Frederick Handel's "Messiah Oratorio" with chamber orchestra, soloists, harpsichord and organ.

Relive the honored holiday tradition of a magic journey with Clara and the Nutcracker Prince as they travel through the Land of the Snowflakes, Kingdom of the Sweets and Land of Enchantment with Alameda Civic Ballet's "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 21-22. Immerse yourself in beautiful costumes and sets, the classic Tchaikovsky score and the vision of artistic director Abra Rudisill.

Post-Christmas activities

Boys and girls from 6 to 13 years can learn about countries around the world and explore their New Year's food traditions by cooking and eating at Cooking Round the World Winter Camp. For six days, starting Dec. 26, participants will cook and discover traditions, customs and New Year's celebrations from four different countries each day.

Get back to nature and enjoy a day by the bay Dec. 26-28 at Crab Cove Visitor Center's Holiday Open House, for which special activities have been planned throughout the day. Interpretive staff will be waiting with nature crafts, games, a movie and popcorn to learn about water and ocean creatures; prizewinning bird bingo out on the bay; bring-your-own-mud boots low tide exploration and fish feeding in the center's aquariums.

IF YOU GO
Mayor's Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave., 510-747-7529. Event held rain or shine.
12th annual breakfast with Santa: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dec. 14, Albert DeWitt Club, 641 West Redline Ave., Alameda Point, www.cityofalameda.gov, 510-747-7529. All family members must preregister, space is limited. Tickets are $15 for 13 years and older; $8 for ages 2-12 years; free if younger than 2 years.
Santa visits Alameda homes: 5 to 8:30 p.m., Dec. 21-22. Cost is $35 per family. Must preregister by fax (510-747-7529), e-mail (arpd@alameda.gov) or in person at ARPD Office, 2226 Santa Clara Ave.
Alameda Holiday Home Tour: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 14, www.alamedahometour.info, 510-629-6208. Tickets are $35 pre-tour, $40 day of tour.
ICRA Holiday Boutique: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Elks Lodge, 2255 Santa Clara Ave., www.icraeastbay.org, 510-869-2584, free.
Vintage jewelry holiday boutique: 2 to 7 p.m., Dec. 14, 901 Shorefront Court, 510-612-3788.
Picture pendant ornament class: 1 to 5 p.m., Dec. 14, 1544 Park St. 510-337-1202. Class is $40 plus $12 material kit.
South Shore Center Little Ice Rink: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Jan. 20, 523 South Shore Center West, www.thelittleicerink.com, 510-629-1423. Cost is $10 to $15 for ages 9 and older; $6 to $8 for ages 8 and younger.
Christmas Tree Lane: 3200-3299 Thompson Ave. between High Street and Fernside Boulevard. Lights on from 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Santa visits from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday through Dec. 23.
"Sacred and Profane" holiday concert: 8 p.m. Saturday, First Presbyterian Church, 2001 Santa Clara Ave. at Chestnut Street, www.sacredandprofane.org, 510-524-3611. Tickets $20 online, $25 day of concert.
Soli Deo Gloria's "A Jazzy Little Christmas": 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Christ Episcopal Church, 1700 Santa Clara Ave., www.sdgloria.org, 888-734-7664. Tickets $18 to $23.
"19th Annual Sing-It-Yourself Messiah": 4 p.m. Dec. 14, Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1420 Lafayette St., www.alamedasingityourselfmessiah.org, 510-523-0659. There will be a free will offering; participants requested to bring canned or dry food items for donation to the Alameda Food Bank.
Alameda Civic Ballet's "The Nutcracker": 2 p.m. Dec. 21-22, Kofman Auditorium, 2200 Central Ave., www.alamedanutcracker.com, 510-337-1929. Tickets are from $18 to $35.
Cooking Round the Word Winter Camp: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 26-27, 30-31, Jan. 2-3, Elk's Lodge kitchen, 2255 Santa Clara Ave, www.cookingroundtheworld.com, 510-593-5285. Cost $240 for six days or $50 to sign up for individual days.
Crab Cove Holiday Week Open House: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 26-28, 1252 McKay Ave., www.ebparks.org, 510-544-3187, free.