The story of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates is so iconic, it's kind of shock to find that it's based not on old Dutch legend, but on an 1865 novel by American Mary Mapes Dodge, who had never been to the Netherlands when she wrote it.
The perennial best-seller tells of a plucky-but-poor Dutch boy and his sister, who, despite their wooden skates, dream of winning the top prize in the annual speed-skating competition on the frozen canals of Holland. It's easy to see the appeal of the story: There's an ailing papa, a missing fortune, acts of selfless kindness, and hard hearts melted, besides the flashing blades. All edifying, all action.
The Arden Theatre Company brings the tale to the stage in an imaginative adaptation by House of Cards writer Laura Eason, with ingeniously choreographed staging of the races.
So another Christmas is past and, as John Lennon sang, it's "another year over, and a new one just begun."
No more fitting way to mark the end of the season and the arrival of 2016 than with a visit to the Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum, ending its winter trek this weekend. The display features model trains (and two cable cars) running on fifteen different rail lines on a quarter mile of track with seven loops and tunnels and nine bridges (including a trestle bridge you can walk under).
Let's give John the last word: "A very Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year. Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave. Canceled in case of rain. Tickets: Free with garden admission of $16; $14 seniors; $8 students and ages 3 to 17; younger than 3 free. Information: 215-247-5777.
Little ones have natural engineering talents, as every adult has discovered (took a while to untangle that construction blocking the bathroom door, didn't it? Gustave Eiffel couldn't designed it better).
The Creation Station at the Franklin Institute features Giant Tinker Toys, huge blocks and noodles, Keva planks, and Legos to let the small fry build and create to their hearts' content. (Local developers may want to send reps to take notes.)