You know it's December when the fight or flight instinct kicks in. If picking a fight with your sister-in-law has lost its appeal and escaping to Puerto Vallarta isn't in your budget, channel your energy in a new direction. Take the family to a free or low-cost seasonal event.
The annual It's a Wonderful Life Festival takes place December 3 through 5 in Seneca Falls. The classic movie of the same name helps us remember what's really important during this hectic time of year. Not losing large sums of cash, right? Oh, and family is cool and stuff like that.
See the movie in the quintessential small town that provided inspiration for fictional Bedford Falls on December 3 at 8 p.m. at ZuZu's Café on Fall Street, or December 5 at 2:30 pm in the library on Cayuga Street. Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played ZuZu, will sign autographs at ZuZu's Café from 2 to 5 p.m. on December 3. A parade and concert will follow. More activities are planned, most are free. You can tell Mr. Potter isn't running this town! Call 315-568-1542 for details.
Old Fort Niagara, in Youngstown, has an open house on December 5from 1:30 to 4 p.m. The Fort's French Castle, built circa 1726, is the oldest structure on the Great Lakes. And I thought that honor belonged to my leaky basement. Enjoy light refreshments and musical entertainment. Sorry, no can-can dancers. The English chased the French out of the Fort in 1759. An 18th-century style silent auction is planned, but you'll need 21st-century money to participate. Everything else is free. For info call 716-745-7611.
Also happening on December 5, Ganondagan's annual Native American Winter Festival at McQuaid High School from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This event showcases local Native American talent. Hoop dancers will create visual suggestions of birds and animals. That'll be a welcome upgrade from Uncle Al's visual suggestion of Santa passed out on the couch Thanksgiving Day.
Learn Iroquois social dances and enjoy stories. Native American artists from across New York State will offer items for sale. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for kids under 12. For details visit www.ganondagan.org or call 742-1690.
Once Upon a Holiday, RIT's annual multicultural celebration, is December 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Grace Watson Building. It's never too early to get the kids used to the idea that someday they'll have to turn off the Xbox long enough to get into college.
Thirteen holidays (and their food) will be showcased at this free event, including Diwali, Bodhi Day, Winter Solstice, St. Nicholas Day, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Christmas. Yep, the kids should write a pretty compelling college application essay after a high-quality experience like that. Call 475-6023 for info.
The Jewish Community Center hosts a Family Fun Day on December 25, from 1 to 8 p.m. It's free and open to the public. Enjoy swimming, roller-skating, music, crafts, and the playgym. Adult visitors can use the cardio equipment. Make reservations by December 17 for kosher Chinese food (fee applies). Everybody wins when you bond with the kids over sand art and get out of making dinner, too. Visit www.jccrochester.org or call 461-2000.
There's a festival of ultra-rare 3-D short films at the Dryden Theatre on December 30 and 31. The same 75-minute program, suitable for all ages, will be screened at 5:30 p.m. both nights. See Casper the Friendly Ghost, a Tchaikovsky ballet, and an atomic blast as you've never seen them before. It's Normal Rockwell tinged with surrealism, the perfect way to wrap up the season. The cost is $6, $5 for students. Check out www.eastmanhouse.org or call 271-4090 for more info.
Remember, you don't have to shell out big bucks to make big memories. Unless, of course, you've been really naughty. If that's the case, Puerto Vallarta is lovely this time of year.
See more of Linda's writing at www.junkstorecowgirl.com.