Things to Do

Christmas Music, Drag Bingo, and a Winter Solstice Celebration: Things to Do in Washington, December 17-20

Plus: Sign wars.

Illustration by Hannah Good.

Hi folks!

We’ve got Christmas carols, Ma Rainey, and drag bingo.

Tune into a radio adaption of A Christmas Carol.

Here’s what you should check out this weekend:

Talk the blues: The new Viola Davis film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, in some theaters now and on Netflix starting December 18, is an adaptation of August Wilson’s play about the famous Mother of the Blues. Join the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s virtual “Cinema + Conversation” event to hear director George Wolfe and actors Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and more discuss the movie and Ma Rainey’s lasting legacy. Friday 12/18 at 7PM; Free, register here.

Caroling, caroling: Get in the merry mood with the Washington Chorus’s annual show, “A Candlelight Christmas.” This year, the group filmed their holiday performance at the Strathmore to stream the concert online for viewers at home. Sing along to classic carols with the whole family. Streaming Friday 12/18 through 12/20; $15, buy tickets here.

A long night: Join the Smithsonian’s Winter Solstice Celebration online this weekend. The evening will include DJ sets, a cocktail class from the Washington Post’s Mary Beth Albright, Smithsonian trivia, and a cheese board-making workshop. Learn about how various communities mark the solstice in their cultural traditions and stay late for a stellar tour of the skies from the George Mason University Observatory. Friday 12/18 at 7:30 PM; $15, buy tickets here.

A brunch throwback: Were you missing Perry’s legendary drag brunch this year? Support the queens in a fun Zoom gala with India Larelle Houston, Whitney Gucci Goo, and Sophia Carrero leading an evening full of performances, prizes, and holiday drag bingo. Friday 12/18 at 7 PM; $25, buy tickets here.

More holiday music: Washington Performing Arts and the German Embassy are teaming up for “Light, Hope & Joy,” a free online holiday concert featuring the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, DC’s trio the String Queens, and the U.S. Air Force Band with special guests from the Die Big Band der Bundeswehr. Sunday 12/20 at 4 PM; Free, stream it on Facebook here.

A show perfect for radio: Catch A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre in a totally new old way—on the radio. The audio performance is a one-hour adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic starring Craig Wallace as Scrooge. Put down the screens and tune in by streaming it online here through January 1 or turn to WAMU 88.5 FM on Christmas Day at noon. Free, learn more here.

Look up: Jupiter and Saturn are aligning in a major cosmic event that Earth hasn’t seen in 800 years. You’ll be able to see the “Great Conjunction of 2020” with the naked eye on the winter solstice (December 21). Learn more about the amazing astrological moment here.

In the news: 

By DC artist Trap Bob.

Yesterday, the biker who aggressively confronted teens for putting up anti-racism signs in Bethesda pleaded guilty to assault charges. You might remember him from a viral video this summer where he snatched signs commemorating George Floyd’s death out of some girls’ hands on the Capital Crescent Trail. It was a scary moment to witness this white man’s rage in response to a harmless act of putting up signs. It’s also not the only time we’ve seen white folks in the area get riled up over anti-racist messages this year: In Chevy Chase, Maryland, one woman tore down Black Lives Matter signs in June and yet another popular video emerged, showing the woman arguing with Stephanie Howell, who was recording, and saying that the signs offended her because “all lives matter.” (Howell later returned to the area with a friend to put up more signs on utility poles that would be out of reach.) 

Just this week, another woman contributed to the sign wars, this time by defacing public art in Takoma Park. There are a couple videos of this woman meticulously scratching off paint from a picnic table. The table mural, painted by DC artist Trap Bob, featured a Black woman under the word “Justice.” By the time we see it on video, the subject’s face has been scraped off. “How racist do you have to be to scrape black faces + names off of someone’s art?” Trap Bob tweeted

Sign wars aren’t new, but they are still disconcerting. In a city full of symbolic gestures and performative allyship—hello, Black Lives Matter Plaza—Black Washingtonians and Washingtonians of color are still dealing with infuriating expressions of racism over some pieces of paper or strokes of a paintbrush. You could put up a sign and face a belligerent white man charging at you with his bike. Or, like last weekend, you could see an angry mob of white supremacists set a Black Lives Matter sign on fire in front of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church downtown. That was an extreme case, but it points to why these sign clashes feel personal and violent, even without flames. The signs create an illusion of solidarity that’s punctured the moment one person decides to flex their privilege by defacing them. The defacement is the loudest symbol, like a shout: Remember who is in power here. “The mythology that motivated the perpetrators on Saturday night was the underbelly of the American narrative — that White men can employ violence to take what they want and do what they want and call that criminality justice, freedom and liberty,” wrote the church’s pastor Rev. William H. Lamar IV in the Washington Post. Yet Lamar’s response is one of resilience: The sign will go back up, and the symbolic culture wars will continue, too.

Thanks for reading! Tell me what you’re up to at home by dropping me a line at rcartagena@washingtonian.com.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.