Frick Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of The Frick Pittsburgh.

Whether you’re a social elf or a grouchy Grinch, there are holiday happenings just for you this December. So bundle up to embrace the sights, scenes and sounds of the winter wonderland season with lights, shows, markets, merrymaking, public art and much more.

Be sure to pack your mask and visit each organization’s website and social media for updated Covid safety protocols.

Photo courtesy of Handmade Arcade.

1. Saturday, Dec. 4: Handmade Arcade at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Where can you find crocheted cacti, belts crafted from bicycle inner tubes, puppy pajamas and cat hammocks, gear for the littlest yinzers in your life, and more? Close that Amazon tab and skip the mall and instead support the region’s thriving maker scene while finding the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list (plus something cool to keep for yourself). The region’s largest craft market returns in-person to showcase 200-plus makers selling artwork, home décor, clothing, candles, jewelry, and lots more. To get a first look at all the goods, check out the Friday Night Happy Hour and Early Bird Shopping option. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the holiday extravaganza will also feature live art demonstrations, take-home craft kits and quilt displays. Register for free.

Photo courtesy of Krampus in Pittsburgh.

2. Krampusnacht in Market Square: Dec. 6

Forget coal in your stocking: if you’ve been naughty this year, prepare to party with Krampus. After all, doesn’t a “horned, goat-like anthropomorphic figure with a long pointed tongue and fangs” sound more fun than jolly old St. Nick? Devotees of the Alpine folk creature will flock to Market Square when the city’s Krampusnacht revelry will reign once more from 6 to 9:30 p.m. One and all are heartily invited to celebrate this ancient European holiday with free activities set amidst the Old-World chalets of the Peoples Gas Holiday Market. The guest of honor will arrive at 7 p.m., so don’t miss the chance to film a TikTok video with Krampus while you’re perched on his lap. Providing the live soundtrack will be Sleigher, whose Krampus-inspired sound is a mash-up of heavy metal, punk rock and festive Christmas carols.

Photo by Bryan Conley courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art.

3. Out of Office Party at Carnegie Museum of Art: Dec. 9 & 16

Is your work from home existence making you loopy? Tired of the ugly sweater party and Secret Santa gift exchange? Make it an office party for the record books by celebrating nowhere near the office. Come solo or bring all your coworkers along from 6 to 9 p.m. to nosh on party bites, sip spiked punch, create photo booth keepsakes and check out pop-up performances. Put a fresh twist on your merrymaking while surrounded by the magnificent Carnegie Trees (and explore the entire museum while you’re at it) in the Hall of Architecture. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of this time-honored tradition, this year’s “Bedazzled” installation features five illuminated Fraser Fir trees adorned with handmade ornaments. Providing the holiday grooves will be huny and DJ Shoe on Dec. 9 and the Title Town Soul & Funk Party on Dec. 16. Organizations and businesses can have CMOA handle the details (group discounts available) or individuals can buy tickets.

Artist Ian Brill. Photo by Joey Kennedy.

4. Illumin-Ave Talk and Walk in Hazelwood: Dec. 10

Rock down to Illumin Avenue when Hazelwood Local unveils the region’s newest public art project. Dubbed Illumin-Ave, the series of five light and art installations will activate storefronts and buildings along Hazelwood’s historic Second Avenue. The installations will be switched on just in time for the holidays and will run through Jan. 31. Neighborhood landmarks such as the Carnegie Library, Floriated Interpretation and Elizabeth Pharmacy, as well as key intersections, will house original work by Pittsburgh artists Alisha Wormsley, Ian Brill, Mikael Owunna and Clear Story (who also provided technical expertise and artistic direction). Don’t miss the Illumin-Ave Talk and Walk kick-off event from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Woods House, to stroll through the immersive corridor and hear the artists talk about their creative process.

The Ladies of SKYY. Photo courtesy of the August Wilson Center.

5. We Want the Funk Festival at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Dec. 10-11

Add some funk to your holiday festivities with this two-day mini-fest. Led by the powerhouse sister trio of Denise, Dolores and Bonné Dunning, The Ladies of SKYY will uplift audiences with their dynamic sound. With a prolific career spanning four decades, the Brooklyn vocalists have earned their rightful place among the trailblazing females of disco, funk, hip hop and R&B. Founded and produced by Larry Blackmon, chart-toppers Cameo will bring their legendary funk aesthetic to the stage. The band has sold more than 20 million records since its debut album was released in 1977. Joining them will be influential Ohio funk bands Lakeside and Zapp. Acclaimed stand-up comedian Ralph Harris will keep audiences LOLing between performances as the event host. Buy tickets.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

6. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center: Dec. 10-29

The Sugar Plum Fairy will once again float across the grand stage — and the glistening snow will swirl down — to transport ballet lovers of all ages. Part of the return to in-person programming throughout the Cultural District, this cherished holiday tradition features more than 150 roles and costumes. An exhilarating showcase of dance and stagecraft, “The Nutcracker” showcases Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, choreography by former PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and costumes and sets by Emmy-winning designer Zack Brown. The three-week run (Dec. 10-29) includes a sensory-friendly performance and pre- and post-show activities. Buy tickets.

Photo courtesy of The Joy of Cookies Tour.

7. The Joy of Cookies Tour in Lawrenceville: Dec. 11

Who needs a cookie table, when you can have a cookie mile? One of Pittsburgh’s most beloved holiday happenings is back and sweeter than ever with a new Rewards Card program and a one-day format. Lawrenceville’s small business community needs our support more than ever and this is a great day to finish your holiday shopping, sample mouth-watering cookies and pick up recipes for your dessert arsenal. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., homemade treats and locavore pride will be baked into the eclectic neighborhood. Nibble your way through the Butler Street commercial corridor to explore 37 Cookie Stops and Take-A-Break sites. Use your Rewards Card at participating businesses to collect stickers and be entered in a Lawrenceville-themed raffle. It’s definitely OK to fill up on dessert. View a map.

Crafts and Drafts. Photo by Matt Dayak.

8. Crafts and Drafts: Outdoor Holiday Market at East End Brewing: Dec. 12

Craft productions of the frothy and artistic kind will be spotlighted at this outdoor holiday market in Larimer. Setting up shop from noon to 3 p.m. on the brewery’s patio, the lineup features 15 local makers all ready to help you make a huge dent in your holiday shopping list. The pop-up series is organized by Matt Buchholz, owner of Alternate Histories, who will sell his cards, calendars and prints. East End will have 15 beers on draft, along with to-go cans. While sipping brews, shoppers can check out everything from hand-painted jewelry, screenprinted goods and sustainable clothing, to candles, ceramics and locally distilled spirits. The brewery also offers fare from its in-house East End Chewing pizza kitchen.

Jennifer Baron

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...