The long: Most elegant of Christmas cultural traditions has a score by Tchaikovsky, choreography by Balanchine, libretto by Hoffmann, music by the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra, "aaaahing" by the Boys Choir, dancing by the Pennsylvania Ballet, and setting in the magical Academy of Music.

The short: Plus, kids love it.

The demo: If they can sit still for a couple hours, they're good to go.

Act I: Sibling pair await guests, including toy-making uncle, for fancy Christmas Eve house party. Sister gets a nutcracker. Merriment, rivalry, sleepiness, tannenbaum super-sizing, rodent battling and doll-to-prince transformation ensue.

20-minute intermission: A $20 donation gets a photo with the Mouse King or Sugarplum Fairy. Worth it.

Act II: Sister and prince go on a dream date. Sugarplum Fairy chaperones. Dancers become desserts, toys, wee angels, more. Snow falls.

New this year: Absolutely nothing. Isn't that great?

Advice: Unless you booked a box, borrow a booster.

Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, times vary Friday-Dec. 31, $15-$135, 215-893-1999,

Lauren McCutcheon is a writer in Philadelphia who wouldn't dare bring her 3-year-old to a ballet.