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Lonely Planet; Happy Holidays

Special Presentations at Flandrau
Various Dates
Flandrau Science Center
1601 E. University Blvd.
621-STAR, www.flandrau.org

The holidays bring up all sorts of questions--some small ("Why do I have to buy all these presents?"), some slightly more cosmic ("What's my place in the world?"). Flandrau takes a stab at answering them with two special presentations--'Tis the Season and Cosmic Questions: Our Place in Space and Time.

Cosmic Questions is an interactive exhibition that, according to the press release, "takes you to the very edges of space and time, and into the heart of humanity's connection to the cosmos. Was there a beginning to time? How do we fit in to the cosmos?" (Do you feel tiny yet? Are you sufficiently reassured that gifts are meaningless and love is all that could possibly matter? I mean, we're talking cosmos here, and you're obsessing about iPods?)

Cosmic Questions is highlighted by a pair of lectures: At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, Dr. Tom Fleming will present Some Like It Hot: Answers From the Chandra X-Ray Telescope; and at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, Dr. Xiaohui Fan will present Emerging From the Dark Ages: Cosmic Answers About the Beginning of Everything. The exhibit itself is on display through the end of December.

The popular planetarium show 'Tis the Season traces the development of many of the world's holiday customs and recounts the historical religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of winter solstice--from Christian and Jewish to Celtic, Pagan, Nordic, Roman, Egyptian and Hopi. Winter constellations and possible explanations for the "Star Over Bethlehem" round out the show.

Admission is $4-$5.50; exhibits are included in the price of admission.


Did Someone Say 'Hot Chocolate'?

Las Posadas Opening Celebration
1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5
La Pilita Museum
420 S. Main Ave.
882-7454

Since 1937, the students of Carrillo School and the neighborhood of Barrio Viejo have celebrated the Mexican tradition of Las Posadas--the re-enactment of the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph as they traveled from house to house seeking refuge. According to Joan Daniels, education director of La Pilita Museum, the procession and costumes have stayed much the same since teacher Margueritte Collier initiated it 67 years ago, basing it on processions she had seen in Mexico.

Pink angels, blue angels, peasants, olla (water) carriers, knocker boys (those who knock on the doors of various houses), nacimiento (nativity) carriers and both indoor and outdoor singers will wind along approximately six blocks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14; "the indoor singers actually precede the procession to designated houses," says Daniels, "and sing back to the procession when they get there."

The tradition of Las Posadas runs strong; many of the children involved "will tell you that they are hoping for a certain part because their mama, tia, nana or abuelito once had the honor," Daniels writes.

The season of Las Posadas begins on Dec. 5 with an opening celebration at La Pilita Museum that also marks their first annual Recuerdos de Las Posadas exhibit, featuring recovered historic photos of Las Posadas past. The public is invited to "sip hot chocolate" and "nibble pan dulce" while viewing the exhibit, which marks the museum's first attempt to permanently archive the decades-old tradition.


Sparkling Lights + Celestial Harps = Heaven on Earth

Holiday Nights and HarpFusion
Dec. 3-5
Tohono Chul Park
7366 N. Paseo del Norte
742-6455

Tohono Chul Park has gone above and beyond in the task of supplementing the holiday spirit--if their Holiday Nights event doesn't make you feel festive, you're just not trying. (Which is fine; no one's telling you that you have to feel festive. But there will be cookies involved, so it's worth thinking about.)

From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3 and 4, Tohono Chul Park "invites you to spend an evening of 'heavenly peace on Earth'" while strolling "leisurely amidst a winter wonderland of glittering lights. ... "

Several new Luminarias del Pueblo will be on display, and chilly strollers can wolf homemade cookies while sipping hot cider and coffee and being serenaded by Native American flutist Vince Redhouse, along with virtuoso violinist Michi and solo harpists. There will also be a sing-along, an ornament exhibit and sale, and a silent-auction at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Tohono Chul Park Tea Room will be open for dinner both evenings.

At 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5, HarpFusion--the world's largest group of harpists, comprised of UA harp majors from around the world--will perform under the direction of Dr. Carrol McLaughlin. HarpFusion tours both nationally and internationally; Tohono Chul recommends the group as the perfect way to "maximize your holiday bliss."

Tickets to Holiday Nights are $2 for children, $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers; tickets to HarpFusion are $7 for children/members and $12 for nonmembers. The park's "Claus Combo"--allowing you to attend both events on whatever evenings you choose--is $8 for children, $10 for members and $18 for nonmembers.


Let the Joy Commence

December Wrap-up
Various Dates
Various Locations

Groups all over town--including theaters, symphonies and museums--are gearing up to add actual substance to your kids' holiday experiences. Show them that this time of year isn't all about the edgy hysteria that's lurking under pretty wrapping paper; introduce them instead to sights and sounds that will linger long after the mall PA systems go limp from Christmas music-withdrawal.

Forget the old-school Santas in said malls--head for the T-Rex Museum (1202 N. Main Ave., 792-2884), where a 13-foot-tall T-Rex Santa Claws awaits a photo-op with your little darling. Admission is $5; kids also can make dino-shaped ornaments each weekend in December.

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra presents The Little Fiddle--the third concert in their Just for Kids series--at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Tucson Symphony Center (2175 N. Sixth Ave., 882-8585). The Little Fiddle and his friend, Herbert the Cello, will take kids on a whirlwind tour of Europe, thanks to a trio of TSO musicians who will also interact with the audience. Admission is free; suggested $2 donation.

Mr. Scrooge!--an original children's musical theatre production by Live Theatre Workshop's Family Series--continues through Dec. 26, featuring "four wacky ghosts who try to sing and dance their way into changing his (Scrooge's) heart." Tickets are $5-$7; call 327-4242 for reservations and showtimes.

The Tucson Children's Museum's annual Festivals of Light event--a series of seven different cultural celebrations featuring music, dance, songs and stories plus fine and folk art traditions--begins Saturday, Dec. 4, with Eid al-Fitr, a celebration at the end of Ramadan; Sunday, Dec. 5 celebrates Hanukkah. Activities take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on designated days and are included in the price of admission. Call 792-9985 for additional information.

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