Baby, It's Bright Outside: ZooLights; Fiesta of Light and Downtown Holiday Tree Tour; Ahwatukee-Foothills Festival of Lights: Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park, is garbed in its usual Technicolor dreamcoat during the facility's fifth annual ZooLights display. The fun continues from 6 to 9 nightly (except Christmas Eve), through Sunday, January 12. Special admission is $4.50, free for kids age 2 and under (call 273-1341). The City of Phoenix's free downtown Fiesta and its second annual, self-guided Tree Tour continue nightly, through Wednesday, January 1. Guided excursions start at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, December 21; and the same time Saturday, December 28 (call 534-3378 or 254-8696). Ahwatukee's white-lights bonanza can be viewed from 6 to 11 each night, through Sunday, January 5; take Chandler Boulevard west about three and a half miles from the street's intersection with I-10, and follow the signs. Hay rides and "luminary" hikes are scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. each Friday and Saturday, through December 28 (call 460-6169).
A Christmas Carol: Actors Theatre of Phoenix's traditional staging of Charles Dickens' ghost story continues with performances at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 19; 8 p.m. Friday, December 20; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 21; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 22; 7 p.m. Monday, December 23; and 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 25, in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. The Christmas-night show is a "priceless" performance; patrons pay what they afford (call 253-6701 for reservations). Final shows are at 2 and 7 p.m. Thursday, December 26. Regular tickets range from $16 to $26, available at Herberger and Dillard's; call 252-8497 or 678-2222.
"Converging Cultures: Art and Identity in Spanish America": The installation at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central, details the distinctly new society that arose in the Americas in the 16th through 18th centuries, a byproduct of the shotgun marriage of European colonialism and native culture engendered by Spain's occupation. The Brooklyn Museum organized the exhibition of paintings, manuscripts, metal works, textiles and sculpture, which continues through Sunday, February 23, in the Steele Gallery. PAM's Debra Salas-Alcantar presents exhibit overviews at 12:15 and 7 p.m. Thursday, December 19. The museum's closed on Wednesday, December 25. Regular hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays). Special admission is $5, $4 for seniors, $2 for students and children age 6 and up, free for younger kids and members; entry is free to all from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Call 257-1880 or 257-1222.
Ballet Arizona's Nutcracker: The troupe presents its version of Tchaikovsky's work, featuring accompaniment by Phoenix Symphony. This week's performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 19; 2 and 7 p.m. Friday, December 20; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, December 21; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 22; 2 and 7 p.m. Monday, December 23; and 2 p.m. Tuesday, December 24, at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. The production continues through Sunday, December 29. Tickets range from $14 to $38, available at the ballet box office and Dillard's; call 381-1096 or 678-2222.
Pup Tarts and People Chow: Three Dog Bakery; Arizona Biltmore Celebrity Bake Sale: Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff of the Kansas City-based bake shop, which specializes in canine cuisine, sign copies of their new recipe book, Short Tails and Treats From Three Dog Bakery, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, December 19, at the PetsMart store at 10030 North 90th Street in Scottsdale (call 391-1647); and at 7 p.m. Friday, December 20, at the chain's branch at 6932 East Hampton in Mesa (call 830-7282). The Biltmore's second annual sale features cookies, candies, cakes and similar holiday comestibles from the kitchens of Olympic gold medalists Kerri Strug and Gary Hall Jr., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Alice Cooper, Barry Goldwater, Jake Plummer and others. It's scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the resort's conference center, 24th Street and Missouri. All proceeds from sales benefit Arizona Biltmore Children's Charities (call 381-7682).
Phoenix Symphony Chamber Orchestra's "Messiah": Conductor Joseph Flummerfelt leads the ensemble and Phoenix Bach Choir in selections from the Handel work. Shows are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 19, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street (tickets are $16 and $20; call 495-1999); 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 20, at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue (tickets range from $13 to $20; call 495-1999 or 784-4444); 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 21, at First Baptist Church of Phoenix, 7000 North Central (tickets are $17; call 495-1999 or 678-2222); and 3 p.m. Sunday, December 22, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 447 South Litchfield Road in Litchfield Park (tickets are $17; call 495-1999 or 678-2222).
The Snow Queen: Center Dance Ensemble has opened its season with the troupe's annual presentation of the ballet noir, adapted from Hans Christian Andersen's tale about good (personified by sweet Gerta) and evil (the lovely but toxic title vixen). Final performances, set to music by Prokofiev, are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 19; 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 20; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 21; and 2 p.m. Sunday, December 22, in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets are $15, $12 for seniors, $7 for students and kids, available at Herberger and Dillard's; call 252-8497 or 678-2222.
Windham Hill's Winter Solstice Concerts featuring Tuck & Patti, Turtle Island String Quartet, and Philip Aaberg: The label's eighth annual winter carnival of contemporary classical (read: new age) music is a perennial highlight--a hushed celebration amid the season's prattle. Pianist Aaberg's exceptional. Shows are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday, December 20; and the same time on the solstice proper--Saturday, December 21--at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Tickets are $20 and $25, available at the center and Ticketmaster; call 994-2787 or 784-4444.