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Enjoy a holiday head start

Enjoy a headstart to your holidays with a host of events, starting this weekend with a Holiday Open House at the Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St., Flushing.

Beginning at noon on Saturday and Sunday, the QBG open house features holiday craft demonstrations, traditional music, a plant sale and activities for kids. Also, Santa is on hand to greet children from 1-4 p.m. in the garden.

The Saturday open house, running from noon to 6 pm., also features a performance by the United Nations International School Queens Junior Choir at 3 p.m. and concludes with a tree lighting ceremony at 5:15 p.m. with a performance from the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music choir. The Sunday open house, running from noon to 4:30 p.m., in addition to the aforementioned activities, also includes a concert by Eart' Acte' at 3 p.m.

"This should be a great celebration. For one thing, for the first time in a number of years, we will have outdoor holiday lights decorating the garden," said Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky, director of marketing at the garden. "We will also be putting lights on our gazebo so the garden will look particularly beautifully this holiday season."

"In addition, of course, we are hosting our traditional plant sale, children's activities, the visit with Santa on both days as well as several musical highlights."

Queensborough Community College is hosting holiday craft courses held at the garden. One course on wreathmaking, will be held Dec. 9, 7:30-9:30.

For more information, call the garden at 886-3800.

This weekend, the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music, 42-76 Main St., Flushing, also hosts a series of free holiday concerts, including a chamber music concert this Friday at 8 p.m., a performance by its Children's Chorus, at 5:15 p.m. Saturday (at the Queens Botanical Garden lighting ceremony), and a program of holiday music sung by the Conservatory Chorale 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11 (again, to be performed at the Garden.) In addition, on Dec. 18, the conservatory presents a Winter Concert at 7:30 p.m For more information, call 461-8910

Also this weekend, Queens Theatre in the Park presents the production "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't," this Saturday at 11 a.m. (the 1 p.m. show has sold out.) at Queens Theatre in the Park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. For more information, call 760-0064.

This Sunday, a one-day performance, "Christmas Around the World," features a multicultural musical celebration of the holiday season, starting at 3 p.m. at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Van Dam Street on 47th Avenue, Long Island City. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 712-8572.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 33-50 82nd St., Jackson Heights, presents an English-language production of the Engelbert Humperdinck opera, "Hansel and Gretel," from Dec. 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. Regularly priced tickets are $17 for adults, $15 seniors, and $9 for children under 12. Discounted advance tickets may still be available. Reservations are strongly suggested. For more information, call 639-8893, ext. 17.

This weekend, Queensborough Community College features a Saturday concert of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at 8 p.m. to be held at the college, 222-05 56th Ave., Bayside. Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors. For more information, call 631-6311.

Next weekend, Our Lady Queen of Martyr's Church, Queens Boulevard and Ascan Avenue, Forest Hills, presents a performance of Handel's "Messiah" on Dec. 12 at 4 p.m., featuring the voices of three choruses: Our Lady Queen of Martyr's, St. John's University and the Oratorio Society of Queens. The orchestra is the Queens Orchestral Ensemble. The suggested donation is $15 ($10 for seniors and students). For more information, call 268-6251. And last but not least, the Oratorio Society of Queens presents its own annual holiday concert Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. at Bayside High School, Corporal Kennedy and 32nd Avenue, Bayside. The concert will feature performances of Handel's "Messiah" as well as excerpts from "Judas Maccabeus" plus a program of traditional holiday music. Concert tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and students with ID; children under 12 are admitted for free.) For more information, call 460-0726.

For Hanukkah, the Rego Park Jewish Center presents a special post-Hanukkah concert Dec. 12, 3-5 p.m., featuring the New Yiddish Chorale which can be heard on Mandy Patinkin's recent CD of Yiddish songs, "Mamaloshen." The Rego Park Jewish Center will be the first stop in Queens for the New Yiddish Chorale with a performance that will feature popular holiday music.

The Queens Historical Society presents its annual candlelight tour of three historic homes, Dec. 12, between 1-5 p.m.: the Kingsland Homestead, 143-35 37th Ave., Flushing; the Bowne House, 36-01 Bowne St., Flushing, and the Friends (Quaker) Meeting House, 37-16 Northern Blvd.

Each of the homes is decorated in true-to-period holiday style with the tours featuring music, refreshments and a visit from Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

The tour will include a toy collection for Hour Children, a Long Island City organization that assists incarcerated mothers. Admission to the tour is $7.50 per adult. Children accompanied by an adult are free. A minibus is being provided for the tour. For more information, call 939-0647.

The new cultural center of the Langston Hughes Library, 100-01 Northern Blvd., Corona will host a special Kwanzaa celebration, honoring the African cultural celebration for the season on Dec. 11, starting at 10 a.m.

"Kwanzaa is a non-heroic, non-political, non-religious cultural celebration of the people of the African diaspora," explained Executive Director Andrew P. Jackson.

The library's 15th annual celebration of Kwanzaa will include opening remarks by Jackson, as well as the sale of handmade craft items and refreshments. For more information, call 651-1100.

The Queens Symphony Orchestra presents its holiday concert, "Messiah and More" on Dec. 10, featuring its multicultural Youth Gospel Choir, which in the past has appeared at the Lincoln Center Gospel Festival. For more information, call 786-8880.

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