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The 2012 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr
The 2012 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr
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NYC's December Cultural Calendar

Picture of Sean Scarisbrick
Updated: 3 October 2016
The holiday season is here again, and New York is ready to celebrate. But before it kisses 2015 goodbye, New York City has much to offer. Celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, see a show, have a drink, go to a film festival, or run a 5K before this year is over.
The 2012 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr
The 2012 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

Nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center. This will be the 83rd year that a tree has decorated Rockefeller Center, and the scene is truly beautiful. If you’re interested in seeing the lighting live, make sure you get there early, because spots are first-come, first-serve. If you’re less interested in beating the crowds, watch the lighting on NBC’s special, Christmas in Rockefeller Center. Check out the great performances, and witness the amazing moment when the tree is finally lit up by thousands of Christmas bulbs. The tree will be on display until January 6, 2016, so do not to miss it.

December 2, 2015 (Tree Lighting); on display until January 6, 2016

Rockefeller Center, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY, USA +1 212 332 6868

abgewickelt, entwickelt
abgewickelt, entwickelt” | © Stefan/Flickr

The Bronx International Film Festival

Lights, camera, action – the Bronx is bringing you three nights of film in two theaters this month with the Bronx International Film Festival. The even is hosted by the Bronx Stage and Film Company, Inc., a company that presents theater and film for public consumption. Get ready for many different types of films: documentaries, animated films, and short and feature narrative films. Prizes for the best documentary and narration/animation film are $1,000 each.

December 4 – December 6, 2015

Lehman Stages at Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY, USA +1 718 960 8024

ugly Christmas sweaters / ski sweaters | © TheUglySweaterShop.com/Flickr
ugly Christmas sweaters / ski sweaters | © TheUglySweaterShop.com/Flickr

Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl

Who’s thirsty” Who has an ugly sweater” These are the requirements to have a great time at the Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl in NYC this year. This is the fifth year this event is happening, and drinkers are ready to enjoy themselves in great bars, like Pinks Bar and Coyote Ugly. Register at Bar None, and get a full map of all the night’s participating locations. There are great deals, like $3 draft beers and ½ priced cocktails. Cheers.

December 5, 2015

Bar None, 98 Third Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 212 777 6663

National Menorah 33840 | © Ted Eytan/Flickr
National Menorah 33840 | © Ted Eytan/Flickr

World’s Largest Menorah

Celebrate each night of Hanukkah in Grand Army Plaza until each light of the menorah is lit. The menorah is 32 feet tall, so visitors can gather near and far to celebrate. The best part of the menorah lighting (and one of the best parts of Hanukkah) is that it lasts for eight days, so if you can’t make it on one night, there are seven other opportunities to make it.

December 6 – December 13, 2015

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY, USA +1 347 693 2863

Outside Madison Square Garden | © Daniel/Flickr
Outside Madison Square Garden | © Daniel/Flickr

ELF The Musical

Get ready for Christmas with ELF The Musical, the theatrical adaptation of the modern Christmas classic. The musical follows Buddy, a human man who grows up believing he is an elf. When he travels to New York City to find his real human family, Buddy learns about love, family, and Christmas cheer in the city. Bring the kids to this event; it’s only around for a limited time.

December 9 – December 27, 2015

Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY, USA +1 212 465 6741

Santacon 2014 New York City | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr
Santacon 2014 New York City | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr

SantaCon

Get out that Santa suit and get ready to toast the holidays. SantaCon is back, and those participating can help out by donating $10 to charity; this donation gives people priority at certain locations, and it’s a great way to give back for the holidays. SantaCon urges people to remember to be respectful – especially while drinking. The map of participating bars isn’t released until the day before, so get ready for a holiday rush.

December 12, 2015

www.Army.mil | © The U.S. Army/Flickr
www.Army.mil | © The U.S. Army/Flickr

Santa Suit 5

It’s time for an athletic, fit Santa Claus. Work off the holiday weight-gain at the Santa Suit 5K, scheduled for Prospect Park on December 13 and Rockaway Beach on December 19. If Santa is able to travel the entire world in one night to deliver presents, you can definitely make it through this 5K.

December 13, 2015 and December 19, 2015

Bartel-Pritchard Square, Prospect Park Southwest, Brooklyn, NY, USA +1 212 639 9675

Boardwalk, Beach 17th Street, Queens, NY, USA

Apollo Theater in Harlem (DSC_0901) | © Juan Alberto Puentes Puertas/Flickr
Apollo Theater in Harlem (DSC_0901) | © Juan Alberto Puentes Puertas/Flickr

Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night

Celebrate Kwanzaa at the Apollo Theater with Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night. It will be hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd, and it will feature Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theater. The joyful dancing celebrates culture, family, and community – the three essential elements of Kwanzaa.

December 27, 2015

Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 531 5300

Broadway | © Matthias Uhlig/Flickr
Broadway | © Matthias Uhlig/Flickr

Our Mother’s Brief Affair

How would you react if your mother revealed that she had a short affair” What if the affair had long-lasting consequences that shocked your family” This is the subject matter of Our Mother’s Brief Affair, a new play by Richard Greenberg at the Manhattan Theatre Club. The main character is Anna, played by Linda Lavin, who reveals an affair to her children as she approaches death.

Previews begin December 28, 2015; opening night, January 20, 2016

Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 399 3000

New Year's Eve in Times Square New York City working with NBC | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr
New Year’s Eve in Times Square New York City working with NBC | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

It’s time to count down the final moments of 2015 and welcome 2016. Every year, Times Square becomes the center of attention as people count down while the shining New Year’s Eve ball descends. Get ready for amazing performances and appearances. Interested in watching the ball drop” Make sure to get there early to get good spots. For those less inclined to huddle together in the cold, turn on your television to experience Times Square live.

December 31, 2015

One Times Square, New York, NY, USA

By Sean Scarisbrick

Sean is a graduate student at Hunter College, where he studies Middle Eastern history. He is particularly interested in cultural history and language’s contribution to culture. He loves Shakespeare, Malala Yousafzai, Game of Thrones, foreign languages (Arabic, Spanish, and French), and Arabic street art.