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Good tidings and great times ; To help fill out the three days of this long holiday weekend, Gusto is giving readers a brief glimpse at things to do

It's Christmas Eve -- and it's Friday.

How often does this happen?

Well, you can go ahead and do the math. We prefer to sit back with a glass of hot buttered rum, thank you very much, and contemplate the possibilities that can only arise with Christmas on the weekend.

Christmas Eve on a Friday, Christmas Day on a Saturday, and Sunday to rest up before going back to the grind sure pave the way for a lot of fun. You have time to get out of the house, take a breather, or round up your friends or family for a yuletide outing. You might want to try something different, something you never did before.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We are making a list, and checking it twice, of ideas to get you started.

The new Olmsted Nights Winter Lights Festival lights up Delaware Park in the area surrounding the Parkside Lodge. Park at the zoo and wander through the 15 acres' worth. The lights are on from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through Jan. 16.

*"A Christmas Celebration" at 5 p.m. today in the Riviera Theatre (67 Webster St., North Tonawanda) features live music and "live message." Kenmore Alliance Church has rented the place out and is putting on the show. "It's ecumenical, but it's a church-y thing," we were told. Most importantly, it's free! And the Riviera is so pretty. Call 692-2413.

*The Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza is open from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m. today, closed Christmas so you can fuel up on the calories you need for Sunday, when it is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Skating is free; skate rentals are $2 for kids, $3 for adults (www.buffaloplace.com).

*So you're staying in to finish last-minute gift-wrapping and decorating or just crashing from all the preholiday hubbub and you're looking for something to watch on TV or have on in the background. Go no further than that modern family classic, "A Christmas Story," which starts its annual 24-hour marathon on TBS at 8 tonight.

*Christmas on a weekend makes Midnight Mass more doable. Here are options:

Midnight Mass in Polish and English, with organ and choir, at Corpus Christi. Polish carols begin at 11:30 p.m. Corpus Christi is at Clark and Kent streets by the Broadway Market. 896-1050.

For Italian ambience, try the Solemn Midnight Mass at St. Anthony of Padua (160 Court St. behind City Hall), with a beautiful Presepio, or nativity scene, and Adoration of the Infant. 854-2563.

At St. Joseph Cathedral (50 Franklin St.), you will hear the Cathedral Brass, and Christmas music played on the Hook and Hastings organ that was the glory of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Is this a great town or what? 854-5855.

*Relive holiday memories by visiting the more than 20 vintage AM&A's holiday windows displayed throughout the Theatre District (Main Street between Chippewa and Tupper along the Metro Rail route). The windows can be seen daily from 3 to 11 p.m. through Jan. 8.

*Just $2 per person. That's all you have to pay for you and your kid(s) to see the kid toon "Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas" at the Dipson Theatre's McKinley Mall and Lakewood Cinema (near Jamestown) locations. Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. Get there early for cartoon shorts, music videos and sing-alongs. Stay late for giveaways for the kids, such as stickers, temporary tattoos, activity books or toys.

*Spend some quiet family time at a museum or the zoo. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society and the Buffalo Zoo are all open Sunday.

*The Fairgrounds Festival of Lights in Hamburg resumes Sunday! It features a drive-through, a holiday magic show, an indoor animated sing-along light show, North Pole Village, kiddie rides, etc. One price for the entire carload. Gates are open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (grounds and buildings to 10 p.m.) through Jan. 1. 649-3900.

*7 p.m. Saturday and on into the night, a Charlie Brown Christmas Party takes place at -- you cannot beat this -- Mulligan's Brick Bar (229 Allen St.). The Facebook invite says it all: "Come get out of the house and go to Buffalo's best bar that's open 365 days of the year 'til 4 a.m.! Celebrate with cheapest drinks of Christmas cheer. Eggnog shot specials and maybe a surprise visit by Santa Red Bull, and our friends from Jameson!"

*Jingle bell rock! There aren't a million bars offering live music on Christmas night, but here are two that are.

Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar, a little club at 253 Allen St. with microbrews on tap, presents Christmas w/Tattoo & Tootie starting at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Also at 10 p.m., the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery (76 Pearl St.) presents the Christmas Party. Featuring such artists as Marcos Udagawa, Hoogs and US Marshall B2B, Big Basha, Steve Kream, Jesse Aaron and Kyle Moody, Ryan Liddell and 3PO, Arehouse and DJ Medison, DJ Cutler and LoPro, DJ Universal, etc. 856-2337.

*Picture those mansions on Lincoln Parkway. Imagine having to decorate them for Christmas. Imagine having to take those decorations down. Thank God you live where you do! But it never hurts to look, so tag along at 10 a.m. Sunday, when Buffalo Tours sponsors a walking tour called "Legendary Lincoln Parkway." Meet at the Lincoln Statue by the Rose Garden in Delaware Park. Tickets are $10, or $5 for students.

*The bracing architecture! The spare, Spartan surfaces! The uncomfortable chairs that don't invite you to sit down! There is nothing like a Frank Lloyd Wright complex to get you up off the couch. If you've got family in from out of town, Sunday is the perfect day to tour the Darwin Martin House, in North Buffalo, or, weather permitting, the Graycliff Estate which will be decorated for the holidays. Admission is $15 ($10 for students). For times and reservations for the Martin House, call 856-3858. Graycliff offers guided tours Sunday through Thursday and admission includes hot cider! Call 947-9217. The snow-covered landscape gives Graycliff a festive setting and though it feels you're a world way, it's only 20 minutes from the Skyway, notes Reine Hauser, executive director of the Graycliff Conservancy.

*Play a board game. When the weather outside is frightful, dust off "Clue" and decide who gets to be Col. Mustard and Mrs. Peacock. Dig out Monopoly and decide who gets to be Rocco Termini, Mark Croce and Carl Paladino. Also recommended: "Life," "Careers," "Sorry!" and "Go to the Head of the Class." The older the vintage, the better!

*What does it take to get through Christmas with the family? Sometimes there is only one answer: "True Grit." The Coen brothers' remake of the classic Western opened this week, and if you need a movie on Sunday, this could be it. Starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

*"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me -- a beer!" On the second day of Christmas, a beer is still good, especially with live music. Three options for Sunday:

At 4 p.m. the Old Hippie Reunion kicks off at the Sportsmen's Tavern (326 Amherst St.). $3. Guitar Pull with Pat Kane follows at 9 p.m. 874-7734.

At 5:30 p.m., the Elmwood Lounge (522 Elmwood Ave.) features its regular hip Sunday lineup, Jazz with Joey Giambra. It's free! "Everyone's welcome to come in and have a good time," said the gentleman who answered the phone. 882-5881.

Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.) plays host at 7 p.m. Sunday to the annual Joe Strummer Tribute Show, featuring your friends and neighbors playing the songs of Strummer and the Clash. Your $10 cover benefits the Strummerville Foundation, which provides musical instruments to underprivileged kids. 465-2368.

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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