What do Jews do on Christmas Eve, when all their Gentile friends are at church or with their families and businesses are closed? Well, if they're young, single, Jewish professionals, they head to the Matzo Ball. The creation of a Jewish guy who got bored watching It's a Wonderful Life and eating Chinese takeout for the umpteenth time, the ball began in Boston 12 years ago and is now held in cities across the country, including Boca Raton and Miami. Festivities begin at 8 p.m. and include DJ music for dancing, appetizers, and door prizes. Tickets cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and a portion of proceeds from this year's ball will go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The two local Matzo Ball locations are: Club Boca, 7000 W. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton, 561-368-3333; and Amnesia, 136 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-531-5535.
Canadian playwright George Walker is as popular in his country as Neil Simon is here. But while Simon's plays, such as the semiautobiographical Brighton Beach Memoirs, rely on sentimental coming-of-age story lines and characters based on real people, Walker's disturbing comedies explore the darkest corners of urban life. Better Living, for example, could have been pulled from the pages of a tabloid. Ten years ago a family matriarch and her priest brother ran her abusive husband out of the row house she shares with her three daughters. As the play opens, she feels her place is too small and seeks to "expand." But with neighbors on either side and a zoning ordinance that doesn't allow for additional construction, she comes up with a unique method to create living space. Better yet, her estranged husband shows up while the work is in progress. Living runs through January 24 at Hollywood Boulevard Theatre (1938 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood). Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $20. Call 954-929-5400.
Each day of Kwanzaa -- which begins today and continues through January 1 -- is devoted to one of "seven principles," referred to as the Nguzo Saba in the Swahili language. Kicking off the African-American holiday is the Kwanzaa UMOJA Celebration: The African Diaspora, which will be attended by a Nigerian tribal chief and a group of Jamaican poets. Their presence is particularly apropos because the first principle, unity, or umoja, calls for a gathering of family and friends in the world African community. During his opening speech, Chief Emanual Ukpai of Nigeria will talk about unity and the six other principles: self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. After his talk poets from the local Jamaican community will read Kwanzaa-themed works and recount the history of the holiday, and traditional African dances will be performed. The event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free. Call 954-357-7395.
One of the main draws of the Sunday-Morning Pick-Up Basketball League at the Sunrise Athletic Club is that games are played in the air-conditioned comfort of a gymnasium. But with the recent run of cool weather, heat may be at a premium during this week's games. Costing $10 (members) to $20 (nonmembers) per week, the league is more expensive than jumping in on an outdoor game on the asphalt at the local park, but it has its perks. In addition to temperature-controlled comfort, players enjoy the squeak of a real wooden basketball court beneath their shoes, glass backboards, and officiating by club staff members, who assist in choosing fair teams. Play -- quite competitive, according to one staffer -- is open to all adults age 18 and older. Games begin at 9 a.m. in the Sunrise Athletic Club Gymnasium, 10610 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise. Call 954-747-4661.
In most versions of The Nutcracker, a little girl dreams that she and a toy soldier-come-to-life rescue the Queen of Winter from the evil Rat King in a magical wonderland. But Marie Hale, artistic director of Ballet Florida, has dispensed with the dream premise. Instead, her Clara is a young lady who actually lives through the experience. Clara and her Nutcracker Prince are played by adult dancers, allowing a true romantic relationship to develop during the action. Hale has also beefed up her Nutcracker with elaborate sets and special effects, including a flying sleigh and a snowstorm of 300,000 flakes. Florida Ballet dancers and students from the group's academy perform the ballet, which is set to Tchaikovsky's brilliant score, beginning Thursday and ending today at the Kravis Center For the Performing Arts (701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach). Ticket prices range from $15 to $55. Call 800-540-0172. See "Stage" listings for the complete schedule.
Kenny Scharf was born in 1958 in Los Angeles, where, while growing up, he watched plenty of '60s TV shows, including The Jetsons and The Flintstones. He was also exposed to the latest trends in space-age architecture and design and took those influences with him to New York City in 1978, when he met Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Together they helped redefine popular art, and Scharf's contributions combined images found in pop art and on the streets. Like Haring, he was particularly inspired by the work of subway "writers," otherwise known as graffiti artists. In his painting Flintstones, for example, Fred's arm is inked with a tattoo of Elroy from The Jetsons, and his tie features a graffitilike pattern of black squiggles. The piece is included in Scharf's latest touring exhibition, "The Jet Age," which remains on view through January 28 at the Nathan D. Rosen Museum Gallery, 9801 Donna Klein Blvd., Boca Raton. Admission is free. Call 561-852-3230 for details.
Elwood's nightclub in Delray Beach typically books blues, rock, and rockabilly bands. But once every month or so, owner Elwood Gochenour opens his space for an event called the Swarm, during which local bands of any genre play, artisans show their work, and entrepreneurs promote their products and services. "The first one went really well," says Gochenour. "The second one went even better." For the third Swarm, entertainment will be provided by Hashbrown, Ex-Cretins, and DJ Flaco. No specific artist is lined up for this installment, but staff from designer T-shirt purveyors Klutch Clothing, High on Air, and ras Culture will be on hand to give out samples of their stuff and mingle with other creative and business types for some power networking. What a concept. Cover is $3. Doors open at 9 p.m. Elwood's is located at 301 E. Atlantic Blvd., Delray Beach. Call 561-272-7427.