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Posted at 11:08 PM ET, 12/20/2009

Free and easy events

By Fritz Hahn

Santa and his reindeer trade the sleigh for water skis and knee boards at National Harbor on Thursday. (2008 photo by Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)

Belt out Handel's "Messiah" at the Kennedy Center, celebrate Kwanzaa while exploring world music with a veteran jazzman or watch Santa come to town -- on the Potomac River.

Swing Dancing at the Hilton Washington Dulles Hotel
Every Monday night, after Sue and Gary Caley finish teaching their two-hour-long Lindy Hop classes ($110 for an eight-week session), there's a free 90-minute DJ dance party. Most of the people are practicing their new moves, but it's a fun environment with a friendly, social crowd.

W. Ellington Felton at Ben's Next Door
Soulful singer W. Ellington Felton serves as the director and host of Indie Music Tuesdays at Ben's Next Door, which offer up-and-coming D.C. artists a chance to show off their skills. But this week, Felton and his band are taking the stage themselves. Since Felton's recent D.C. appearances have been more of the special-guest variety, it's a great chance to see the man in action for a full set.

'Messiah' Singalong at the Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center's free performance of Handel's "Messiah" features the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, a 200-person chorus with professional soloists, guest conductor Barry Hemphill of the Metropolitan Chorus and a very enthusiastic audience bellowing the "Hallelujah" Chorus. The crowd will pack the Concert Hall to the rafters. Tickets will be distributed at 6 p.m., and each person in line can only get one ticket, so bring your whole clan with you.

Water-Skiing Santa at National Harbor
On Dasher, on Dancer, on . . . water skis? National Harbor's water-skiing Santa is one of the oddest holiday traditions around, featuring Kris Kringle and knee-boarding reindeer on the Potomac River, along with the Flying Elves and Frosty the Snowman in a dingy, all pursued by the Grinch on a jet ski. Afterwards, the Candy Cane Kids lead carols and Santa and the other performers will be available for photos.

All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam at the Kennedy Center
On a day when most things in Washington are closed - even the zoo! - the annual All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam brings the city's top jazz talent to Millennium Stage for a concert of holiday and classic tunes.

Kwanza Workshops at the Anacostia Museum
The theme of the first night of Kwanzaa is umoja, or unity. That principle will be explored though musical instruments, led by world music expert Brother Ah, the founder of the World Music Ensemble at the Levine School of Music and a horn player who has performed with Miles Davis, Theolonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard, among others. Reservations are suggested.

'Matisse as Printmaker' at the Baltimore Museum of Art
French artist Henri Matisse is renowned for his paintings and sculpture, but he also devoted much of his time to printmaking and created rich, sensual works. This exhibit, which closes on Jan. 3, is worth the drive to Baltimore.

-- Fritz Hahn

By Fritz Hahn  | December 20, 2009; 11:08 PM ET
Categories:  Events, Free and Cheap  
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