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Friday 12/26 - Thursday 1/8

DECEMBER

By Cara Jepsen

26 FRIDAY It took more than a century to build Washington's National Cathedral, the sixth largest in the world. Two of its most notable features are windows: a rose window made of 10,500 pieces of glass depicting the theme "Let there be light," and another window commemorating the flight of Apollo XI and containing a sliver of moon rock. Who says there's a separation between church and state? The cathedral has areas dedicated to presidents Lincoln, Washington, and Wilson, as well as a carving of Martin Luther King Jr. preaching his last sermon. If you traveled to D.C., you could pay $2 for a self-guided tour. But today you can take a free hour-long video tour of the cathedral at 12:15 in the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. Call 312-747-4100 for more.

27 SATURDAY Louisiana-born bluesman Lonnie Brooks cut his teeth playing guitar under Clifton Chenier, the king of zydeco. He first came to Chicago in 1959 as part of Sam Cooke's backup band. In the 1970s he hooked up with the local Alligator Records, and the rest, as they say, is history. The blues tradition continues today when Brooks and his son, guitarist Ronnie Baker Brooks, perform as part of the Cultural Center's "Rollin' on Randolph" series. It's from 2 to 3:30 in the Cassidy Theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free; call 312-744-6630.

28 SUNDAY Three days after Christmas and the kids are already whining about how bored they are with their new toys. The Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences has come up with a way to keep frazzled parents from eating their young--its Winter Wonders program. Teen docents will entertain children with presentations on topics such as how animals survive the cold and how ice crystals form. It's today from 12 to 6 at the Nature Museum, 435 E. Illinois at North Pier. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children 3 to 17, and free for kids under 3. Call 773-871-2668.

You can continue the lessons of the great outdoors--and perhaps enjoy some peace and quiet--at the Lincoln Park Conservatory Winter Flower Show, which features a model train that will chug around the holiday flowers and 13 replicas of Chicago edifices made out of plants. It's open 9 to 5 and the show runs through January 11 at 2400 N. Stockton Drive. It's free; call 312-746-5100 for more information.

29 MONDAY If you can't wait for New Year's Eve to resume your holiday gluttony, the WNEP Theater Foundation is holding its first annual Pie Eat and Go Fish Tourney. Besides gambling and eating, you can view videos by the improvisational group My Shins, including The Killer Christmas Tree, which explains why the festive pines are kept fenced in at the lot. Doors open at 7 and the program begins at 8:30. Raffle prizes include a basketball signed by the Bulls and two tickets to an upcoming game; the drawing starts at 10. It's at Oinker's Bistro, 3471 N. Elston. Tickets are $20 and proceeds benefit the four-year-old foundation. The number for tickets and info is 773-549-4845.

30 TUESDAY The free Sleigh Ride that goes up and down the length of Navy Pier doesn't actually involve a sleigh; you ride in a horse-drawn cart on wheels made to look like a sleigh. But so what? It works, it's free, and it offers a spectacular view of the skyline and the lights along the pier. Rides will run from noon to 6 and leave from the entrance to Dock Street on the south side of the pier at 600 E. Grand. Call 312-595-5225.

31 WEDNESDAY While a lot of people will be downing drinks, cutting rugs, kissing strangers, driving drunk, and breaking resolutions tonight, the folks at the Zen Buddhist Temple will be lighting candles, chanting, meditating, reflecting on the past year, meditating some more, and listening to a dharma talk--a discussion based on the teachings of Buddha. At midnight a giant gong will be struck 108 times to symbolize participants' 108 vows to eliminate the 108 defilements, including lust and gluttony. The Kindling Light of the Mind service begins at 8 and lasts until 10. There'll be a short reception until the meditation starts at 10:30. It's at the Zen Buddhist Temple, 1710 W. Cornelia. It's free. Call 773-528-8685.

JANUARY

1 THURSDAY What better way to undo last night's excesses and kick off the New Year than by taking a brisk run for charity along the lakefront? That's what a bevy of brave souls will be doing at today's Grant Hospital New Year's Day 5K Run/Walk. The noncompetitive event starts at 11 at Stockton Drive near North and LaSalle, heads north to Diversey, and returns south along the bike path. Registration is $20 ($17 if you preregister), which benefits the American Airlines Chicago Charity Fund. Afterward you can cancel out the health benefits at a party at the Roadhouse, 1653 N. Wells. Call 773-868-3010.

If a run seems like too much fresh air, there's the indoor Ameritech County Fair, which features carnival rides, exhibits, Christmas choirs, line dancing, food, ice carving, a petting zoo, jugglers, stilt walkers, mimes, clowns, and every other horror designed by man to scare small children. It's from 11 AM to 10 PM through January 4 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for kids four to ten, and free for kids under four; the price includes unlimited rides. Call 312-595-5999 for more.

January 2-8

We're taking the week off at the Reader. Here are some things to do in our absence:

If you're one of those people who rely on the cute rhyme to remember how many days are in each month, you may have wondered why the ancients couldn't have adopted a simpler calendar. Indeed, in 1582 Pope Gregory XII decided to correct the system by eliminating several days from that year. What were the repercussions--other than some poor souls having to skip their birthdays that year? Find out tonight when College of Complexes coordinator Charles Paidock discusses the Adoption of a New/Never Changing Calendar. Personally, I think it should be based on the menstrual cycle. It's at 8 on Saturday, January 3, at the Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N. Lincoln. Tuition is $3 plus a food or drink purchase. Call 312-326-2120.

Every year Elvis Presley misses another birthday, and every year people find it necessary to commemorate that fact. This season's most elaborate Elvis Birthday Tribute promises a smattering of peripheral members of the King's posse, including his original drummer, D.J. Fontana, and Colonel Parker's right-hand man, Al Dvorin--the guy who quipped "Elvis has left the building." The headliner is Elvis impersonator Trent Carlini, who usually struts his stuff in Las Vegas. It's at 7 Thursday, January 8, at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Tickets are $26; call 312-559-1212.

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