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WHAT’S HAPPENING

MOVIES: Opening Friday, “Cirque de Soleil: Worlds Away 3-D (PG), “Jack Reacher” (PG-13); opening Wednesday, “Les Miserables” (PG-13); “Parental Guidance” (PG).

NEW ON DVD: “Pitch Perfect” (PG-13), “Trouble With the Curve” (PG-13), “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” (PG); “10 Years” (PG-13).

CONCERTS: Jeremy Hoyle with Alun Piggins and Kevin Greene, 8 p.m. Friday, Tralf, 622 Main St.

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, 9 p.m. Saturday, Tralf, 622 Main St.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, 3 and 8 p.m. next Thursday, First Niagara Center, 1 Seymour H. Knox III Plaza.

THEATER: “Max and Ruby in the Nutcracker Suite,” 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda.

EXHIBIT: “The Science of Sports,” through Jan. 6, Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway.

LET’S PARTY

It’s that time of year again … the holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or just the New Year, consider these tips when planning your next holiday party.

1. Have a theme. Having a themed party makes the planning much easier. You can buy themed supplies such as Christmas lights, appropriately colored streamers, and even the beverages can be dyed with food coloring. You don’t have to spend a lot to spread a little holiday cheer!

2. Shed light on the subject. Decorating your venue with Christmas lights may sound cheap, but nothing can brighten up the room more than a few strings of twinkling lights to make you feel festive.

3. All gamed out? If your guests grow tired of playing games then you can always resort to holiday movies and reruns of holiday episodes from sitcoms. Showing the Christmas episodes of “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Frasier” is always a hit.

4. Tunes. You don’t always have to play “Jingle Bell Rock” while exchanging gifts. Stick to a playlist that’s classic, varied and not obnoxious. The smooth melodies of a saxophone can be just as effective in setting the winter mood to your party versus blaring vocals or modern remakes of old songs.

5. Sweets for the sweet. Holiday parties are the perfect place to serve homemade cookies, hot chocolate and candy canes. If you don’t have time to labor over the stove and perfect those cookies, make it a potluck so each guest is responsible for bringing a treat. Guests are always glad to bring their own traditions to the table, and exchange recipes with one another.

6. Oh, goody! Goody bags are a must at every party. “I always give a small inexpensive hostess gift for everyone to go home with,” says party planner Denise Christopoulos. “It always brings a smile, and people love going home with something.”

WRITE AWAY

Symphony Spaces’ Selected Shorts is sponsoring the 2013 Stella Kupferbery Memorial Writing Contest. The theme is “Complicated Famlies.” The winner will receive $1,000. Entries must be no more than 750 words. The story must have a title and never previously published. The deadline is March 15, 2013. For more information, visit www.selectedshorts.org/.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I met Aretha Franklin at Clive Davis’ birthday party. I was totally freaking star-struck, and my husband was like, ‘Go say hi,’ but I didn’t want to bother her. I turned into a 3-year-old – she’s up there with Frank Sinatra for me.”

– Alicia Keys on the last time she was star-struck, in People magazine

– McClatchy Newspapers