Hip Hop Summit
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Hip Hop Summit features a Graffiti Gallery Tour by Max Gonzales and Shane Pilster. Photo courtesy of Seth Culp-Ressler.

December is not a time for hibernating in Pittsburgh. We’ve got terrific ideas for warming up with culture, comedy, cookies, crafts and more. Even the surliest Grinch or Scrooge among us will turn into a social butterfly with this lineup of the best holiday happenings.

Photo courtesy of Arcade Comedy Theater.

1. “Sketchville” at Arcade Comedy Theater: Dec. 1-10

Be transported to the Titanic, the Red Planet and a motel in the year 0 B.C. — all from your theater seat. The Downtown company has pulled out all the stops to craft a show from scratch in just five weeks — and now you get to experience the hilarious results. Kicking off with fanfare on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., the “decidedly homegrown affair” runs for six shows across two weeks. Directed by Parag S. Gohel, the classic sketch comedy revue combines hand-selected scripts by 15 local authors, musical numbers and a gaggle of kazoos. Closing night is a must-see when the theater welcomes “Kids in the Hall” co-founder Kevin McDonald for performances and workshops. Buy tickets.

Handmade Arcade
Etna Print Circus at Handmade Arcade (2018). Photo by Joey Kennedy.

2. Handmade Arcade at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: Dec. 2 & 3

Looking for gifts that are more unique than what you’d find on Amazon? Choose from clothing, jewelry and accessories, art, home decor and body products from 250 vendors at Pittsburgh’s largest independent craft market. Returning this year are hands-on activities including make-and-takes and community art projects, plus a Pittsburgh Glass Center sale. The festivities begin Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. with a ticketed Happy Hour ($35) that allows you private access to browse the fair before the crowds. You’ve got another chance to do so Saturday if you buy Early Bird Shopping tickets for $25. The main event is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free, but attendees need to reserve a timed admission pass. (Cristina Holtzer).

DJ Nate Da Barber. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

3. Hip Hop Summit at the Trust Arts Education Center: Dec. 3

Hip-hop may have been born in the Bronx by way of Jamaica, but this month it rules the mic Downtown. This full day of programming presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust — most of it free — celebrates the four elements of hip-hop culture — emcee, DJ, graffiti and breaking. The exciting all-styles dance battle for cash prizes and trophies is judged by Level Up Studios founder Mario Quinn, PyurTek of the Get Down Gang and Olympic hopeful Bgirl Powerflow. Want to make your mark? Learn to spray paint, write graffiti letters and create your own canvas during the workshop led by Pittsburgh artists Max Gonzales and Shane Pilsner. Ready to move? Join a class to experiment with funk styles like popping, boogaloo, waving, tutting and robot. Explore graffiti at the Pittsburgh artist gallery and the screening of Charlie Ahearn’s seminal 1983 hip-hop film, “Wild Style.” The electrifying day begins at 2:30 p.m. and culminates from 8 to 10:30 p.m. with a ticketed showcase (only $5) featuring DJ Nate da Barber, DJ Inception, DJ Yamez and 1Hood Media artists.

Photo courtesy of Krampusnacht in Market Square.

4. Krampus celebrations in Market Square and Station Square: Dec. 5

Who needs a jolly old dude in a red suit when your new partner in crime can be a mythical goat-like creature with spiky horns, sharp fangs and a pointy tongue? Twas the night before Saint Nicholas Day — aka Dec. 6 — and all through the towns and villages of Europe and Russia, Krampus appeared to swat naughty kiddos with birch sticks. Here in 21st-century Pittsburgh, if you’ve been naughty, that’s a good omen, because you get to party with cool cat Krampus. This year you’ve got two chances to channel your inner pagan. At 6:30 p.m., devotees of the Alpine folk creature will gather in Market Square for a free all-ages Krampusnacht parade through the quaint holiday chalets. At 8:15 p.m. the 21+ Krampus crowd will make the rounds at Downtown’s pop-up Christmas bars culminating at Miracle on Liberty. Over at Station Square, the Hard Rock Cafe courtyard will morph into a Krampusfest playground from 7 to 10:30 p.m. At the ticketed event, you can rock out to music by Sleigher, join the Parade of Krampi and film a TikTok with Krampus.

Photo by Sean Eaton courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art.

5. Winter Heat at Carnegie Museum of Art: Dec. 9

Warm your toes and your soul when Carnegie Museum of Art debuts its newest nocturnal party concept as part of the Welcome This Winter program series. DJ Arie Cole, known for Pittsburgh’s Slappers N Bangers trap parties, will bring the heat to the turntables during the dynamic gloom-busting winter fête. Sip winter warmer cocktails and explore cutting-edge global art at the 58th Carnegie International. Toss off that winter jacket, rock a sparkling ensemble and dance the night away from 8 p.m. until the clock strikes 12. What’s for dessert? An iconic Pittsburgh cookie table, of course. Make it a winter wonderland by popping into the Scaife Galleries to see the ornate Neapolitan Presepio — one of the world’s finest nativity scenes. Jingle your way through the Hall of Architecture admiring the illuminated Carnegie Trees, a beloved Burgh tradition since 1961. Buy tickets.

Photo by Rosalie O’Connor courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

6. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center: Dec. 9-28

There are many ways to rediscover “The Nutcracker” this month with productions around town reimagining the timeless classic. There’s something about experiencing PBT’s rendition surrounded by the glow of the Cultural District that makes the holidays even brighter. This year’s milestone show marks the 20th year it’s being performed based on the choreography and concept by former PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. It takes 150 costumes, 1,500 accessories, 100 artists and 30 sleight-of-hand tricks to make this magic happen. Add in Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, the talents of Emmy-winning designer Zack Brown and Pittsburgh touches like the Kaufmann’s clock and you’ve got one enchanted evening. The excitement begins at a Christmas Eve party in early 20th-century Shadyside, “where a gift from mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer sparks an adventure for young Marie Stahlbaum.” Buy tickets.

Cookie Tour
Photo courtesy of the Lawrenceville Corporation.

Who needs visions of sugarplums when you can munch your way through a 30-block-long cookie table? It’s that most delicious time of year when Lawrenceville’s eclectic commercial corridor transforms into a roving bakery from noon to 5 p.m. both days. Shoppers have lots of ground to cover with 55 stops along Butler Street and Penn Avenue. Pop into boutiques, restaurants and cafes to collect free cookies while boosting the local economy. Just look for the jolly gingerbread people outside of participating destinations. Recharge at Take-A-Break stops with lunch and warm cocktails. Need a lift? Powered by woman-owned businesses, a convenient trolley will transport patrons throughout the neighborhood. This local holiday tradition is 24 years in the making and seems to get sweeter each year. View a map.

Hand-painted accessory by Anna Labick. Photo courtesy of the Queer Craft Market’s Instragram.

8. Queer Craft Market at Union Project: Dec. 11

Express your authentic self, show your pride and support Pittsburgh’s prolific queer maker community. Launched in 2017, the city’s premiere queer-led craft market showcases local LGBTQIA+ makers, artists and creators from around the region at seasonal markets. The collective is hosting this evening’s Winter Bazaar to make sure you can score something made with care for everyone on your shopping list. These are cool crafts with personality, flair and distinction. Peruse vendors selling everything from artwork, jewelry and crafts, to zines, vintage goods and home decor. With a welcoming Sunday evening format from 5-8 p.m., you can meet the makers and learn more about their work and creative process.

Made & Found
Photo courtesy of the Made & Found Facebook page.

9. Made & Found Holiday Market at Spirit: Dec. 18

This smartly curated market arrives as a gift to all of the eternal holiday procrastinators out there (aka me). Setting up shop from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Made & Found returns to fill Spirit with a holiday marketplace. With 30 vendors, you can check out all the wares at your own pace, take your time making selections and talk with makers and shop owners firsthand — without feeling overwhelmed by the selection or the space. Explore the region’s top vintage purveyors, independent artisans and boutique brands while enjoying yummy brunch and beverages. From MCM home décor, letterpress designs, leather goods and holistic products, to retro denim, eco-fashions and small-batch ceramics, you’ll want to snag something from every seller. And you’ll feel good about supporting Pittsburgh’s sustainable small businesses.

 Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

10. First Night in Downtown Pittsburgh: Dec. 31

We’re not sure how it’s already time to write the date 2023, but we do know that the Cultural District is the place to be as one year fades into the next. Free to all, Highmark First Night Pittsburgh will pulsate with 30-plus attractions, including live entertainment stages, engaging activities and public art from 6 p.m. to midnight. The explosive fun features not one but two fireworks displays — taking place at 6 p.m. and at momentous midnight. What’s new this year? Walk into 2023 via an immersive 5-foot-high ice maze created by master carver Richard Bubin. The exuberant night showcases performances by INEZ, 4-Yaadi and Alumni Theater Company plus hot sets in the First Night Jazz Lounge. Follow the festivities at the Highmark Holiday Block Party, take the kiddos to the AHN Family Zone and see cutting-edge art at Wood Street Galleries. Several ticketed events are taking place at indoor venues, too. It wouldn’t be NYE in the 412 without the jubilant parade with signature giant puppets and art cars created by Studio Capezzuti — and the Future of Pittsburgh Ball climbing 75 feet to light our way into January. Who is Pittsburgh’s next star? Watch the winner of the Williams SING-OFF Competition — judged by Broadway actor and Pittsburgh native Nick Cortazzo — perform live. Become a Friend of First Night to get access to the exclusive NYE lounge.

For live music, check out our December Concert Guide. For family events, read 10 terrific December events for merry-making kids in Pittsburgh.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.