Press Picks

Recycling That Holiday Tree Bringing the tree home is one of the best parts of Christmas. The whole house fills with the green scent of pine, and the tree looks gorgeous even before all the balls and lights and glittery stuff go on it. But after the whole shebang is over, what can you do with that dried-out, prickly stick, other than toss it rudely to the curb? Leave it to the folks at the Houston Arboretum Nature Center to come up with a class that will give you tons of innovative ideas. This demonstration promises easy, fun-filled ways to recycle your tree -- and help backyard wildlife at the same time. 1-3 p.m., Houston Arboretum Nature Center, 4501 Woodway Drive, 681-8433. Free.

"A Victorian Holiday" at Bayou Bend We owe Christmas, as we know it, to the Victorians. So if you want to know the genesis of all the lights, shopping, baking and exhaustion, bundle up your family and drive to Miss Ima Hogg's house. She's dead now, but her 28-room mansion and its beautiful contents are on display year-round, and right now, it's all done up for the holidays. Today only, strolling carolers and the Scottish Rogues bagpipe band will entertain adult guests while children enjoy games and crafts led by costumed assistants. 1-5 p.m., Bayou Bend, 1 Westcott Street, 639-7750. Free.

monday
december 22
Rockets vs. Lakers It's not quite "Showtime" again, but the Lakers, with Shaq, Kobe Bryant and Nick Van Exel, have one of the best records in the NBA. The Rockets, we've noticed, aren't playing too shabbily either -- even without Hakeem. So let's get it on. 7:30 p.m., Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza, 629-3700. $12.50-$475.

Volunteer Income-Tax Assistance You know how confounding those tax forms are. Still, you've got the energy and confidence to toil away till you figure out what number to carry to which line, what gets subtracted from what and who gets added to whom. But what if you didn't speak English, or hadn't been in the States long enough to figure out how the tax codes work? What if you were old and on a fixed income? The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides volunteers to help those who need assistance and can't afford it. Maybe this is your chance to learn a lot more about how the tax forms work and to get that warm, fuzzy helpful feeling. Classes start in January, so if numbers and adding and forms excite you at all -- or even if you hate that stuff but want to help folks -- call and find out when and how to sign up. Ask for Harold P. Kron at (281) 721-7070.

tuesday
december 23
Hanukkah Tonight at sundown, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins. Most everyone knows that Hanukkah involves a Menorah and eight candles -- but a lot of folks don't know why. This Jewish holiday commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Hellenist Syrians back in 165 B.C. After their victory, the Maccabees went in to clean and dedicate the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that the Syrians had defiled The Judean heroes could find little undefiled lamp oil (this was ancient times, and a lot of defiling was going on). Miraculously, the tiny amount they did find kept the lamps going eight days, until new oil could be found. Thus, the miracle is celebrated with the lighting of the Hanukkah candles over eight days. Even if you're not Jewish, sit back this evening and give thanks for lights at the darkest part of the year.

wednesday
december 24
19th Annual Christmas Eve Big Feast The City Wide Club fed over 25,000 hungry people last year and expects even more guests this year. But it needs your help. You can sign up to cook, serve or clean up afterward; or you can donate new and unwrapped toys or bring nonperishable food items and clothes. The feast takes place 7 a.m.-3 p.m., George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Convention Center Blvd. You can drop off toys at 4715 Caroline or at any local Thrifty Car Rental location. For more information -- or to volunteer -- call 523-1640.

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