Explore Boston

The Merrymaker's Guide to 12 Plays for Christmas in Boston

From concerts to musicals, a dozen festive performances on stage have us singing this season.

Concerts, musicals, ballets and other festive performances take to Boston stages, sanctuaries and halls for one fabulously entertaining holiday season.

#1: Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker

Boston Ballet "The Nutcracker"
Boston Ballet performs "The Nutcracker" (©Liza Voll Photography)

The Boston Ballet upholds its annual tradition again this year, staging Mikko Nissinen's magical "The Nutcracker" production, redesigned specifically for the Opera House stage back in 2012. Clara, the Sugarplum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance and enchant in this timeless tale set to Tchaikovsky's well-known score. Nov. 28-Dec 31. Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, 617.695.6955

#2: Holiday Pops

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra make merry with this annual series of joyous, holiday-themed concerts. Patrons will be hard pressed to sit quietly, as the ensemble of world-class musicians turn out carols, spirited commissions and popular modern favorites, including Mendelssohn’s classic “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” Leroy Anderson’s original “Sleigh Ride,” and a special version of Seuss-favorite “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Pint-sized music fans can enjoy tot-tailored matinees, complete with treats and photos with Santa Claus. Dec. 3-27. Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617.266.1200

#3: Jose Mateo's The Nutcracker

Led by innovative ballet choreographer José Mateo, contemporary ballet company and school José Mateo Ballet Theater usually brings new works to audiences and revisits this classic ballet every December, offering a more modern rendition and more than 200 children. Dec. 4-14. $38-$50. The Sanctuary Theater, 400 Harvard St., Cambridge, 617.354.7467

#4: Stille Nacht: A Classical German Christmas

Chamber ensemble Musicians of the Old Post Road brings to light the inspired works of centuries ago playing period music from the baroque, classical and early romantic periods on wind, string, and keyboard instruments. This month, catch this classical holiday program featuring German instrumentals like Leopold Mozart's "Musical Sleigh Ride" and other works by Bernhard Hupfeld, G.J. Werner and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Dec. 6, 3 pm. $25-$30. Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., Boston, 781.466.6694

#5: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Musical

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Musical"
Nostalgic set from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Musical" (©Karen Almond Photography)

Based on the much-loved classic 1964 film, this brand new stage production brings characters like Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius, Clarice and, of course, Rudolph to life amid sets that recall their television counterparts. Both kids and adults alike will love watching Rudolph's adventures with his friends, his visit to the Island of Misfit Toys, and as he helps Santa save Christmas. Dec. 9-14. $28-$68. Citi Shubert Theater, 265 Tremont St., Boston, 866.348.9738

#6: Messiah

At NEC's acoustically wonderful Jordan Hall, Martin Pearlman’s world-class Boston Baroque period-instrument orchestra and chorus presents George Frideric Handel's landmark composition, "Messiah," a performance for which the ensemble has been nominated for a Grammy Award. Dec. 12-13, 7:30 pm. $25-$80. Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, 617.987.8600

#7: Holiday Sing

Founded in 1815, Grammy-winning period orchestra and chorus Handel and Haydn Society is one of the oldest continuously run orchestras in the U.S. Celebrate the season in Faneuil Hall's historic Great Hall as Lisa Graham leads the ensemble, a brass quintet and the audience in singing a compilation of popular carols including "The Angel Gabriel," "Joy to the World" and the "Hallelujah" chorus. Dec. 13, 1 pm and 3 pm. $5-$35. Faneuil Hall, Boston, 617.266.4217

#8: Noel

Campy, classical and creative, Boston Gay Men's Chorus rings loud with 175 male voices. This year's version of the annual December offering is a holiday-fueled musical extravaganza featuring traditional carols like "Star of Wonder," "Ave Maria" and "Deck the Hall," as well as fun contemporary numbers like "The Lights Have Been Strung" and "Sparklejollytwinklejingley." Dec. 14 at 3 pm, Dec. 19-21 at 8 pm. $15-$45. NEC's Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, 617.542.7464

#9: Irving Berlin's White Christmas The Musical

Audiences get ready for a brand new production of this romantic holiday classic set at a Vermont inn. Two former soldiers have left active duty after World War II to sing and dance on stage, and encounter pretty sisters in the process. Song favorites include "Happy Holiday," "Blue Skies" and the title song. Dec. 16-28. $35-$125. Citi Wang Theater, 270 Tremont St., Boston, 800.982.2787

#10: Candlelight Christmas at Old South

Music Director Jamie Kirsch directs Chorus pro Musica in presenting a charming Christmas choral program. Audiences experience music from the Renaissance to today, including selections from Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor, Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium" and the commissioned world premiere of American composer James Kallembach's "The Tryal and Examination of Old Father Christmas." Dec. 19, 8 pm. $25-$57. Old South Church, 645 Boylston St., Boston, 800.658.4276

#11: An American Christmas

Artistic Director Anne Azéma leads this 60-year-old Boston Camerata in presenting historically informed European and American music from medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. In time for the holidays, hear this program that features colonial-era carols, New England anthems and religious and folk hymns from the South. Dec. 20, 8 pm. $10-$50. First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St., Cambridge, 617.262.2092

#12: First Night Boston 2015

First Night Boston parade
First Night Boston parade (©Courtesy First Night Boston)

The country’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival, presented by Highland Street Foundation and the City of Boston, rings in 2015 with 200 performances, events and exhibits. Elaborate ice sculptures can be viewed in Copley Square, Boston Common and else where, fireworks light the night sky at midnight, and the Chinese dragon-studded grand procession winds along Boylston Street starting at 5:30 pm. Dec. 31, 1 pm-midnight. Buttons (allow free admission to all indoor events): $10. Events citywide.