The Christmas display at 3560 21st St. Photo by Peretz Partensky.

The Christmas season need not be only about shopping for presents—or, for that matter, a holiday marking the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s also a time for extra festive parties, Hanukkah, and delightful arts offering. In the Mission, there’s plenty of latkes to eat, cult Finnish films to view, Afro-Cuban drumming to boogey to, and Satanic punk bands to mosh to. In the style of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” here’s a list of some of the Mission’s best holiday events that’s much more enjoyable than any pear-tree-perching partridge.

On the first day (December 14):
What better way to kick off this Holiday season with a taste of Carnaval? On this proverbially first day of Christmas, the beautifully restored Carnaval mural above the House of Breaks, at 24th and South Van Ness, gets the rededication ceremony it deserves. You got it, the winter chill won’t stop a troupe of Samba and Aztec dancers from marking the occasion alongside SF Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía. It’s a free event and there’s more details here.

“The Unknown of Space Balls” by Dan Michiels, courtesy of Creativity Explored.

On the second day Day 2 (December 15):
Creativity Explored, the arts nonprofit that works with the developmentally disabled, fosters some of the most vibrant, original artists in town. For unique holiday gifts for the art-lover in your life (or, let’s be real, for your own apartment), it’s a great place to hunt for an eye-catching print, painting, textile, or ceramic. All month, Creativity Explored hosts its annual Holiday Sale in which all original artwork is 20 percent off. Check it out here.

On the third day (December 16):
The food education nonprofit 18 Reasons has many a holiday workshop fit for the whole family (gingerbread house making, cookie decorating, etc…) yet one of their most enticing offerings is decidedly for grownups. For the third day of Christmas, we suggest you take out your sniftner for a course in cognac. Taught by BiRite’s alcohol buyer Rachel Gepner, this very sophisticated workshop will educate you in the finer points of distilled wines like armagnac and calavado. Click here for tickets and more info.

On the fourth day (December 17):
Many have tried and failed to turn Christmas mythology into compelling horror— among them the 1974 hilariously awful Silent Night, Deadly Night and 1996’s snowploitation Jack Frost. But leave it to those closer to the North Pole to make something truly scary about the oft jolly patron saint of Christmas. The 2010 Finnish horror film Rare Exports casts Santa as undead demon unearthed by a troupe of reindeer herders and is, believe it or not, is actually critically loved. The late Roger Ebert called it “an original, daring, carefully crafted film.” It plays for one chilling night only at the Roxie.

On the fifth day (December 18):
Let us not forget it’s also Hanukkah, in which Jews around the world delight in fried food because some Second Temple oil miraculously lasted for eight days. Deep frying is better left to the pros, though. For all your latke and sufganiyot (aka jelly donuts), Wise Sons Delicatessen has got you covered. The always delicious joint offers catering throughout the festival of lights, more info here.

On the sixth day (December 19):
As the shortest day of the year approaches, cozying up with some melodic indie pop sounds like a perfect antidote to low winter sun blues. At Solstice in Stereo II, KALX’s second annual wintertime concert at the Chapel, Foxtails Brigade headlines with promises of pleasant, dreamy crooning from front-women Laura Weinbach. Also in the lineup: the psych-rock sounds of the Bay Area’s Tambo Rays and the pleasing pop of Ash Reiter. Tickets and details here.

On the seventh day (December 20):
Forget about that “12 drummers drumming” hooey, the percussionists and musicians of Loco Bloco have been offering Afro-Latino rhythms for a solid 20 years. On this night (as well as December 19) at the Brava Theater, the troupe celebrates their momentous anniversary with a night of original music, dance, and theater featuring high octane and groovy sounds from Latin America and the African Diaspora. More details here.

Image courtesy TrannyShack.

On the eight day (December 21):
Around the holidays it’s important to say: “Thank you for being a friend.” By reenacting beloved Christmas episodes of the classic sitcom Golden Girls, drag performer and producer Heklina, and a cast of talented queens, plan on doing just that. For 12 performances throughout the month, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia come to life on stage at the Victoria Theater. Tonight’s your last chance to join the fun but for other dates and tickets, check out the event’s Facebook page.

On the ninth day (December 22):
For some back flips with your figgy pudding, consider Mittens and Mistletoe an annual “winter circus cabaret.” Directed by the clown duo Coventry and Kaluza, the evening at Dance Mission Theater promises clowning, acrobatics, and ample whimsy for the whole family. For tickets and more information, check here.

On the tenth day (December 23):
In this tenth day of Christmas, may we suggest a hike up 21st Street to witness the fabulous, and impossibly-sized, Yuletide display at the home of Tom and Jerry (Tom Taylor and Jerome Goldstein). The couple has been adorning their front lawn, and its Norfolk pine, for 25 years and each year the display has gotten bigger and bigger. Blinking lights, animatronic stuffed animals, model trains, and even a hired Santa dwarf the house. A “gift to the city,” it’s free to visit Taylor and Goldstein’s house at 3560 21st Street (between Church and Sanchez); the lights are on and Santa will be in attendance from December 10-24, 6:30-9:30 p.m..

On the eleventh day (December 24):
In proud a Italian Christmas Eve tradition, Valencia Street’s Locanda will hosts its annual Feast of Seven Fishes. Perhaps symbolizing the seven hills of Rome or the seven days of creation, the Feast, also known as La Vigilia, always includes that lucky number of seafood dishes. For its event, Locanda offers up risotto with dungeness crab, octopus terrine, charcoal grilled pancetta wrapped whole fish, and more—not to mention wine pairings and specialty cocktails. For more information and tickets, visit Locanda’s website.

On the twelfth day (December 25th):
If celebrating the Nativity isn’t your thing, the Mission offers something for everyone—even Satanists! At the annual Black X-Mass you can opt not to honor any conception of a Judeo-Christian God with Karla LaVey and her 1st Satanic Church. If your mind immediately goes to sacrificing virgins, fear not. The celebration with the Satanic church involves Pachuco Cadaver, a Captain Beefheart cover band, and a dude who plays theremin. The dark acts go down at the Elbo Room, more information here.

Procession for la Virgen de Guadalupe. Photo by Bridget Huber.

And a special bonus for the religious among you…

The Mission Dolores has a full roster of Christmas ceremonies. On December 12, the historic and ever elegant Mission hosts a Procession and Feast for the Virgin of Guadalupe. Hundreds of participants parade through the streets, singing  as they carry an altar of the Virgin to mark the day she appeared to in Mexico to a young boy on Tepeyac Hill. The Mission also hosts a Las Posadas procession, a Christmas concert, and a Midnight Mass. You can see the full schedule of events here.

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top...

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  1. The twelve days of Christmas actually starts on Dec 25 and ends on Epiphany, Jan 6. Right now we’re still in Advent.

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