Things To Do

Best Bets: Boxing Day, Holidaze, and a Christmas Vacation Movie Party

Spend Boxing Day in the galleries of Rienzi.
Spend Boxing Day in the galleries of Rienzi. Photo by Cameron Bertuzzi
It’s that time of year, so be warned: With Christmas right around the corner, this week’s list of best bets is a little more sparklejollytwinklejingley than usual. But whether you celebrate Christmas or not, or if you’re just the epitome of a Scrooge, we like to think we’ve got you covered. So keep reading to see our picks for this coming holiday weekend.

It’s an established fact that “a yuletide trip to the movies has become an American tradition,” and despite the double whammy of pandemic and streaming services over the past few years, 85 percent of audiences have returned to movie theaters since 2021. One of the most popular films of 2022 was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and whether you saw or not – our guess is you did as it made more than $400 million dollars domestically – you’ll want to relive its predecessor, 2018’s Black Panther, on Thursday, December 22, at 7 p.m. Bank of America’s Screen on the Green will bring the Marvel superhero film, “an action-adventure origin myth which plays less like a conventional superhero film and more like a radical Brigadoon or a delirious adventure by Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs,” to Discovery Green for a free outdoor screening.
This weekend Performing Arts Houston will bring a holiday-themed circus to town – and by circus we mean Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a two-act production featuring contemporary circus acts – jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, etc. – along with music, comedy, and more. Marcel Wilson, who has directed and choreographed the two Cirque Dreams Holidaze productions (there are two touring concurrently) with his brother Kevin, recently described it to the Hartford Courant as “a family show, with something for everyone. You can bring your kids or go on a date night or take a co-worker.” Cirque Dreams Holidaze will be presented four times, at 4 and 8 p.m. on Friday, December 23, and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 24 at Jones Hall. Tickets can be purchased here for $37.40 to $110.
We can all debate our favorite holiday films until we’re blue in the face, but we can promise someone is going to bring up that “glowingly goofy homage to family holidays,” National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The 1989 film, the third featuring the Chevy Chase-led Griswold family, “is a tightly bowed story of household delirium,” one “in the spirit of anything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong,” and “a warm and toasty skewering of Americana.” On Friday, December 23, at 7 p.m. make your way over to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema LaCenterra for the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Movie Party, an immersive and interactive experience complete with props – including pine tree air fresheners and ugly neckties, of course. Tickets are available here for $15.15. (And feel free to prepare yourself in advance by going through a list of 100 of the best National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation quotes here.)
The holidays aren’t always merry and bright for everyone, so do yourself a favor and kick off this weekend with a good laugh. On Friday, December 23, at 8 p.m. The Secret Group and Comedy HUB Houston will present All A’s Asian American Comedy Show Holiday Special. On the bill are comedians such as Son Tran, a two-time finalist for Funniest Comic in Texas; Chicago-based comic Jerry Tran, named one of the “Eight North American Asian comedians to watch out for”; and Sheng Wang, who The New York Times dubbed “Best Member of the Mitch Hedberg Family Tree” for his “laid-back drawl, moseying delivery and gift for ingenious premise.” You can get a general admission ticket for $10 or a VIP ticket (with preferred seating and meet and greet perks) for $20 here.

If you’re from the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth nation, you know the day after Christmas as Boxing Day. Though it seems that we don’t know exactly where Boxing Day came from, we do know that it’s an official holiday in the U.K. and that’s all we need to know to want to celebrate it here. On Monday, December 26, from 1 to 4 p.m., you can get a taste of the holiday our cousins across the pond celebrate during Boxing Day at Rienzi. Enjoy the beautiful holiday decorations adorning the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s house museum, done by The Garden Club of Houston, along with art activities, cookies and beverages, music by harpist Hope Cowan from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and (of course) self-guided tours of the galleries, including a gallery talk at 2 p.m. Admission to the event is free.

You could say that an entity has reached a certain level of notoriety when it becomes a plot point on a Netflix show, which is exactly what’s happened for the ever elusive Shen Yun. The notably “anti-communist” entertainment company has toured their classic Chinese dances and traditions across the country many times, including multiple stops in Houston, and this year popped up on an episode of Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s Never Have I Ever. They’re back in town for 10 performances at Jones Hall from December 26 through January 2, 2023, with performances scheduled for 2 and 7 p.m. on Monday, December 26, and Sunday, January 1; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 27, through Friday, December 30; and 1 p.m. Saturday, December 31, and Monday, January 2. Tickets can be purchased here for $80 to $200.
Admittedly, the Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is the crown jewel of holiday shows around these parts. But if you’re anything like us, you can’t get enough of E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic story and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's iconic music, and that’s why we’re recommending Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet over at the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land on Wednesday, December 28, at 7 p.m. The touring production, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, is back on the road this year after a two-year hiatus with Anna Trofimova, soloist and audition director for Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet, telling Broadway World Minneapolis/St. Paul ahead of performing in the city, “We try to make a miracle on stage to let everybody live their own fairytale.” Tickets can be purchased here for $30 to $100.
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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.