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Prepare ye the way of the minivan! Make straight in the desert a highway for our Jeeps and Ford Tauruses.

With apologies to Isaiah, the holidays are upon us, and it's time to get out of the house. Never, one might imagine, has there been a livelier yuletide than this one.

Whatever kind of holiday season one craves, it's right here in Western New York. Do you dream of Victorian days? Start with the Freudig Singers' "A Christmas Pie" -- a virtuosic choir concert followed by old-fashioned desserts. Do you hanker after merrie olde England? Hie your quaint self to "Messiah" at Kleinhans Music Hall on a crisp Sunday afternoon -- and invite your friends over later for a fine roast of beef.

Maybe you're quirky, avant-garde. Venture out to the high-tech Shea's Christmas show by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, whose upcoming PBS special features Jewel and Michael Crawford. Want a cuddly holiday for the kids? Try "The Velveteen Rabbit" at the Theatre of Youth.

To make selecting a holiday outing easier, we've included special keywords after each event to indicate whether it's religious in nature or sophisticated, suitable for families or involves free food (that would be the "gingerbread" keyword).

Let's explore our winter wonderland.

Tradition, tradition
Clear the calendar! The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus present Handel's "Messiah" at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in Kleinhans Music Hall. Soloists include Buffalo-born bass baritone Valerian Ruminski. $20 to $45; call 885-5000. (religious, sophisticated)

The skilled Freudig Singers present "A Christmas Pie," a Christmas recital followed by pies baked by the singers, 7:30 next Friday in Orchard Park Presbyterian. $10 to $12; call 662-8521. (religion, Victorian, sophisticated, gingerbread)

The program repeats as "Christmas at Niagara" at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 in the chapel of Niagara University, and as "Christmas in the City" at St. Joseph's University Church at 7 p.m. Dec. 28. (religion, Victorian, romantic)

Marley's ghost walks again! "A Christmas Carol" will be staged, as God intended, by the Alleyway Theatre at the beautifully restored Forbes Theatre, 500 Pearl St. Five performances, Dec. 13 through 21. $10 to 24; all 852-2600. (feel-good, family, Victorian, romantic)

What's prettier than Orchard Park in the snow? At 7 p.m. Dec. 8, Timothy Kennedy leads the Orchard Park Chorale in its 28th annual Winter Concert in St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 4536 S. Buffalo Street, Orchard Park. $XX; call 649-6155. (cosmopolitan, religious)

The road to tradition: "The Road to Bethlehem" is a musical by Alleyway Theatre director Neal Radice based on the Christmas story. The show, which is now in its fifth year and on the way to becoming a classic, runs 8 p.m. Dec. 19 through 21 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 22 in the Alleyway Theater, One Curtain Up Alley in the Theater District. $10 to 20; call 852-2600. (religion, feel-good)

God rest ye, merry Celtic types

"And the uncles jumped and rumbled." That's our favorite line from Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." The Irish Classical Theatre Company brings Thomas' heart-tugging reminiscence to the stage for a musical taking place Dec. 12 through 22 in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts on the North Campus. $15 to $20; call 645-ARTS. (feel-good, romantic)

There's something so British about the lighting of the big tree at 4 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave. It must be the warbling kids kids from St. Paul's Cathedral. This year, the annual event takes place at the gallery's Clifton Hall. (cheap, family, romantic)

The Irish Rovers, who conquered the charts years ago with "The Unicorn," present a Christmas concert at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 in King Concert Hall at Fredonia State College. $17.50; call 673-3501. (family)

"An Old Fashioned Irish Christmas" happens at XX p.m. Dec. 12 in the picturesque Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. The Dady Brothers, a well-known folk duo, will be warbling carols and leading a sing-along, with the Woodgate School of Irish Dance performing interpretive step-dancing. $XX; call 692-2413. (cheap, family)

Nine brothers and sisters from Canada make up Leahy, a band that incorporates, song, dance, fiddle and piano playing. The family comes at 8 p.m. Dec. 18 to Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave., for "Fiddles and Strings: A Leahy Christmas." The Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra will also be featured. $XX; call 878-3005. (family, feel-good)

'All I want for Christmas is a change of pace ...'

Mi, mi, mi, mi! Warm up now for the annual "Messiah Sing-In" at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 in the University at Buffalo's at Slee Hall, North Campus. "And the government shall be upon his shouuuulders!" This tradition is gaining momentum. $XX; call 645-2921. (feel-good, romantic, sophisticated)

Talk about supersized! At 7:30 p.m Wednesday in Shea's, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra presents its annual holiday show complete with high-tech lighting effects and heavy-metal versions of old carols. Band mainstay Robert Kinkel is from Williamsville. $29 to 46; call 852-5000.

Have a Rat Pack Christmas! "Christmas My Way," described as "a Sinatra holiday bash," happens from Dec. 12 through 22 at MusicalFare Theatre on the grounds of Daemen College, 4380 Main St., Amherst. Directed by Randall Kramer, choreographed by John Fredo, the production features Sinatra holiday carols performed and holiday tales told "in the 'Rat Pack' style." $XX to $XX; call 839-8540. (romantic, sophisticated)

The Artie-nominated "Christmas Confessions," produced by Buffalo United Artists, is a look at the gay experience during the holiday season. The new play by Matthew Crehan Higgins opens next Friday and runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. and 7 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 15 in Upstairs Cabaret, 884 Main St. $XX to $XX; call 886-9239. (sophisticated)

In 1963, the St. Teresa's Boys Choir soared like a reindeer and cut a Christmas album. Now, 40 years later, it has been re-released on CD. The choir is having a reunion and CD release party at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 in the Blackthorn restaurant, 2134 Seneca St. Organizers promise: "The voices of the choir -- or at least some of them -- will again fill the South Buffalo/St. Teresa's parish air!" Free; call 825-9327. (cheap, feel-good, gingerbread)

Cheryl L. West's drama about drag queen, "Holiday Heart," continues through Dec. 8 in the Robeson Theatre, 350 Masten Ave. $16 to $20; call 884-2013. (sophisticated)

That's entertainment!

The BPO Holiday Pops concert often sells out, so get to it now! Marvin Hamlisch conducts this year's program, and soloists are Chuck Basil, who won the BPO's "Star Search" in the spring, and Diamond Jazz, a vocal quartet that was a runner up for the prize. Concerts are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Dec. 14, and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15. And at 6:45 p.m. Dec. 15, the Buffalo City Honors seventh- and eighth-grade chorus will be featured. $21 to $43; call 885-5000. (romantic)

O'Connell & Company present a Christmas show in their Cabaret in the Square Theater, 4476 Main St. in Amherst, from Dec. 5 through 28. Expect carols, songs and stories with, of course, O'Connell and Company's inimitable sense of humor. $XX to $XX; call 839-3949.

"Santa's Blues," a comedy by Paulette D. Harris, runs Dec. 13 through 20 in the Paul Robeson Theatre, 350 Masten Ave. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. $XX to $XX; call 884-2013. (sophisticated)

We don't have Bing Crosby any more -- but we do have Michael Civisca. He croons carols at 8 p.m. next Friday in the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia. $XX, call 679-1891. (romantic, sophisticated)

For kids from 1 to ...

"Hansel and Gretel" comes to Kleinhans at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22. Ron Spigelman conducts a staged, costumed production of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera, which became a Metropolitan Opera holiday tradition back in 1931. Also suitable for adults. $XX to $XX; call 885-5000. (family, feel-good, gingerbread)

Last year, "The Great Russian Nutcracker" was missing Mother Ginger; this year, in response to the upheavals in Chechnya, Masha dreams not of the Land of Sweets but of the Land of Peace and Harmony. There's also a dove of peace that appears at key moments. Well, the music's the same. The Moscow Ballet dances the dance at 1 p.m. Dec. 1, with a special performance at 5 p.m. that day to benefit AIDS Community Services. $22.50 to $47.50; call 852-5000. (family, feel-good, sophisticated)

Imagine Allentown in a light snowfall, the historic gingerbread houses glistening and sparkling. Enjoy the vista when you take the kids to the Theatre of Youth, in the Allendale Theatre on Allen Street, for "The Velveteen Rabbit," running 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 31. The show is about toys that come to life, and a bunny that becomes real thanks to a child's love. 14 to $16; call 884-4400. (family, feel-good, gingerbread)

The Hill Brothers specialize in entertaining kids, singing for them and telling stories. But adults like them, too; after all, Dave Ruch, Judd Sunshine and Jerry Raven are all magnificent bluegrass artists. Catch the Hill Brothers' holiday show at 2 and 7 p.m. Thursday in the Fredonia Opera House ; call 679-0891) and at 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. in Ray Evans Seneca Theater in Salamanca. ($2; call 945-1003.) $10 (family)


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