Things to Do in New York in December: Events for Each Day This Month

Although we are still mostly in the virtual realm, several in-person experiences dot our December roundup. Most all of us can’t say goodbye to 2020 quickly enough, but we have some good opportunities for looking back, and looking forward. We’re especially eager for presentations on Jung and tarot, John Coltrane, and a Filipinx holiday cooking demo.

Tuesday, December 1. Use your noodle and hear from Lisa Feldman Barrett, neuroscientist and author of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, as she turns her attention to questions as fundamental as “Why do we have a brain?”

Wednesday, December 2. Sniff out a sensory adventure with Harold McGee (Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells), whose new book looks at scent, running from the sulfurous ancient Earth to the fruit-filled Tian Shan mountain range to the notes of phenol and formaldehyde escaping from your keyboard. Museum of Food and Drink.

Thursday, December 3. Set prejudices aside to learn more about unconscious bias from Stanford psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.

Friday, December 4. Gaze up, virtually, at the night skies as Royal Astronomical Society Fellow Nick Kanas, M.D. traces Celestial Cartography From Ancient to Modern Times.

Saturday, December 5. Journey with the Self, as informed by tarot and Carl Jung, as scholar Mary K. Greer leads a Morbid Anatomy session.

Sunday, December 6. Immerse yourself in the best of New York City architecture, and a foray into lesser-known corners, as the Art Deco Society of New York takes a look at Brownstone Brooklyn.

Monday, December 7. Put drama at center stage with the conversation You Have Done That You Should Be Sorry For and the “Tent Scene” (Act 4: Scene 3) from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Red Bull Arts New York.

Tuesday, December 8. Delve into the occult side of progressive politics with historian Mitch Horowitz, as he explains the unexpected connections between Spiritualism and suffragism; hoodoo and Frederick Douglass; and the trance medium who became America’s first female presidential candidate. 

Wednesday, December 9. Pack your bags for outer space, metaphorically at least, as the New York Academy of Sciences looks at NASA’s Artemis program and the return of humans to the moon.

Thursday, December 10. Say “si” to a talk on Spain and its contributions to American independence, turning a backwater revolution into a world war. Fraunces Tavern Museum.

Friday, December, 11. Discover the celebrations of yore at this lunchtime lecture on the holiday season in 1830 New York City and 19th century seasonal traditions. Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden.

Saturday, December 12. Catch the second night of the China Now Music Festival, focused on China and Beethoven.

Sunday, December 13. Celebrate “A Love Supreme” and the single-day session where John Coltrane reached an apex of religion, philosophy, and music making. 92nd Street Y.

Monday, December 14. Join philosophy of mathematics and metaethics expert Justin Clarke-Doane  as he talks about Morality and Mathematics, the first book-length treatment of the topic. Columbia University.

Tuesday, December 15. Root around for an opportunity to join A Holiday Gathering: Food, Foraging, and Mythology, a look at the nourishment and folklore of the winter solstice.

Wednesday, December 16. Find food traditions further afield with the Museum of Food and Drink and its Noche Buena: A Filipinx Holiday Cooking Demo and Conversation. Ingredient boxes are available. There will be karaoke.

Thursday, December 17. Lose your chains in a Columbia University conversation about the rise of capital and its potential overcoming, as laid out in For Coöperation and the Abolition of Capital; or, How to Get Beyond Our Extractive Punitive Society and Achieve a Just Society.

Friday, December 18. Lend an ear to a true American original and a Louis Armstrong House Museum celebration of The Louis Armstrong Holiday Experience. Special guest performances will include Champian Fulton, Ethan Iverson, and Catherine Russell.

Saturday, December 19. Shake a leg for The Limón Dance Company and a free livestream performance from Kaatsbaan Cultural Park. The program showcases a pair of masterpieces by José Limón, “The Moor’s Pavane” (1949) and There Is a Time (1956), along with a newly commissioned dance.

Sunday, December 20. Bid a “buona notte” to Hershey Felder as he pays a virtual visit to The Town Hall for an extended focus on The Nutcracker Ballet and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s time in Florence, Italy.

Monday, December 21. Honor one of 2020’s biggest losses as Commonpoint Queens leads a tour through the traveling exhibition Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Tuesday, December 22. Acknowledge the urgency of climate change with professor of philosophy and environmental studies Brian G. Henning presenting on Heating Up: The Ethics of Climate Change.

Wednesday, December 23. Haunt your erev Christmas Eve with the New York Adventure Club and A Christmas Carol: The Surprising Story Behind Dickens’ Classic.

Thursday, December 24. Step inside the Bialystoker Synagogue for a one-hour in-person tour of the historic spot, which was built in 1826 and is believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad (CANCELLED DUE TO COVID SURGE.)

Friday, December 25. Take advantage of a second chance to check out Bialystoker Synagogue, with an in-real-life walking tour taking in Shteibl Row and Historic East Broadway as well. (CANCELLED DUE TO COVID SURGE.)

Saturday, December 26. Add some music to your visuals as the Museum of Arts and Design hosts performances to complement the stunning stained glass of British artist Brian Clarke. Saturday’s show features Yulia Ziskel, first violinist of the New York Philharmonic.

Sunday, December 27. Walk off your holiday indulgences (virtually at least) with a Municipal Art Society of New York tour of 19th-century tenements, notable postwar apartment buildings, and several of the city’s most spectacular mansions along East 72nd Street.

Photo by Tawni Bannister.

Monday, December 28. Embrace mindfulness with the Rubin Museum of Art, as renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg leads a virtual meditation session.

Tuesday, December 29. Drum up the energy of the moon as the New York Open Center marks the winter solstice “Cold Moon” with a virtual ceremony and drumming.

Wednesday, December 30. Rejoice in the impending demise of 2020 with Composers Concordance, which presents a live concert (livestream and in-person attendance both available) featuring compositions written this year as duets for electric guitar and distanced music collaborators.

Thursday, December 31. Seek out perspective on the holiday lights with a ride up to the newly revamped observatory of the Empire State Building, open 365 days a year, with heaters and social distancing in full effect.

For a printable PDF of the December calendar, click here.

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