The holidays are all about tradition — with a little spice thrown in for variety. The December lineup at the Bardavon offers four seasonal favorites and one — no, two — offbeat surprises. Bring the kids to the annual Celebration of Lights Parade and Fireworks, downtown Poughkeepsie’s kick-off to the holiday festivities. Afterwards, head to the theater for It’s a Wonderful Life, which was named the “Most Powerful Movie of All Time” by the American Film Institute (Dec. 5. Parade begins at 6:30 p.m., movie at 8 p.m.). The Nebraska Caravan returns with their stage version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (Dec. 7 at 3 p.m.); the New Paltz Ballet Theatre’s lavish production of The Nutcracker features principal dancers from the New York City Ballet (Dec. 13 at 2 & 7:30 p.m., Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.). Adding the spice is humorist David Sedaris, who skewers modern-day culture with his trademark sardonic wit (Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.). And as we go to press, legendary Kinks frontman Ray Davies signs on for a rare local performance (Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.). Call for ticket information.
35 Market St., Poughkeepsie. 845-473-2072 or www.bardavon.org
As we all know, the lazy main character in Washington Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle” falls asleep for 20 years. Get a glimpse of his dreams at Winter WonderLights, a brand-new event taking place at Sunnyside, Irving’s Tarrytown cottage. Created by the same folks who bring us the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze each October, this elaborately decorated outdoor landscape is full of light, color, sound and motion. Light sculptures depict mountains and valleys, towering trees, oversized candy pieces, animals, fairies, unicorns, and all manner of fantastic creatures. An original soundtrack guides you around the festive illuminated property. Dec. 11-14, 18-23, 26-30; Jan. 2-3. $75 per car (must be purchased in advance).
89 W. Sunnyside Ln., Tarrytown. 914-631-8200 or www.hudsonvalley.org
It’s music month at the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, which features concerts ranging from classical to jazz to gospel. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, the all-female Claremont Trio performs works by Ravel, Shostakovich, and contemporary composer Mason Bates — whose “String Band” piece was written especially for the piano trio (Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.). Trumpeter Irwin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra give the yuletide season a jazzy twist with their “Home for the Holidays” show; highlights include Duke Ellington’s arrangement of the Nutcracker Suite, and Louis Armstrong’s version of “O Christmas Tree” (Dec. 13 at 8 p.m.). Singing in eight different languages, the 25-member Soweto Gospel Choir thrills audiences with the earthy rhythms and rich harmonies of African gospel music (Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.). Call for ticket information.
735 Anderson Hill Rd., Purchase. 914-251-6200 or www.artscenter.org
The Art and Culture Program at the Albany International Airport has been displaying art for the past 10 years. In celebration of this milestone, the Airport Gallery hosts a quirky exhibit entitled A Remarkable Past: Objects of Outlandish Purpose and Astonishing Configuration. Twenty-five area museums have contributed items which “attest to the creative peculiarities of human nature.” And peculiar they certainly are: You can see a “Ring Roller Reducer” (a 1935 exercise machine owned by the New York State Museum), and a wreath fashioned from the hair of Ulysses S. Grant’s family members (from the Saratoga Springs History Museum), to name just two. Both artistic and mundane, this exhibit is likely to amuse — and confound — both young and old. Through March 29. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
737 Albany-Shaker Rd., Albany. 518-242-2222 or www.albanyairport.com