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Step into the light

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SUN 12/7

Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Lunar New Year, and Diwali – though these holidays seem diverse at first glance, they've got more similarities than differences among them. All are celebrated in the wintertime, marked with games, food, songs, and religious rituals, and strongly associated with light, from the candles that adorn Hanukkah menorahs to the small earthen lamps that symbolically welcome the goddess Lakshmi to the homes of pious Hindus during Diwali. Of course, a focus on illumination is only to be expected from fiestas that take place near the dark, gloomy winter solstice. But the traditions and tales that accompany each jubilee's brilliance are more than just folklore – they're also fascinating windows into other cultures.

The Lively Foundation pays tribute to bright galas with "The Festival of Lights," an afternoon of dance, music, theater, and comedy that peers into the whys and wherefores of holiday incandescence. Banish the dark at 3 p.m. in the Veterans' Building's Green Room, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $12-14; call 346-8959 or visit www.livelyfoundation.org.
– Joyce Slaton

Musical Youth

SAT 12/6

Six women + pots, pans, and a jack-in-the-box = Toychestra. The group is big with fans of high-concept experimental music, but it also delights children. The silly music begins at 1 p.m. at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Admission is free-$12; call 674-2870 or visit www.exploratorium.edu.
– Hiya Swanhuyser

Breakfasting

SUN 12/7

About a billion people celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr worldwide, from North Africa to Southeast Asia. The name means "break the fast," and the event takes place at a slightly different time each year, depending on sightings of the crescent moon. When it comes, the Islamic world can start eating during the day again, ending the traditional fasts of Ramadan. Children often get presents and candy on this day, and the many different cultures of Islam celebrate with music, poems, and stories. Join the Eid-ul-Fitr Islamic Cultural Celebration, which features live classical, folk, and new music plus other fun stuff, at 3 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck (at Prince), Berkeley. Admission is $10; call (510) 849-2568 or visit www.lapena.org.
– Hiya Swanhuyser

Crafty Christmas

SAT 12/6

Dad doesn't need another tie, and Mom's not dying for more dime-store perfume. Don't head to the mall in search of holiday offerings – the Randall Museum provides the tools, inspiration, and know-how to fashion one-of-a-kind gifts at "Holiday Crafts Day," with workshops on creating homemade presents like beeswax candles, fragrant soaps, raku pottery, and wooden yo-yos. The building begins at 10 a.m. at 199 Museum Way (at Roosevelt), S.F. Admission is $2-5 per project; call 554-9600 or visit www.randallmuseum.org.
– Joyce Slaton

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