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GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : Solstice Solace : The year's longest night will be celebrated with mystery, magic and portrayals of winter spirits.


December is filled with the sounds of Christmas carols, bells and chimes, the bellowing laughs of jolly men in bright red suits. But one December night brings the mysterious rhythms of drums and rattles played by winter night spirits dressed in black and white.

Santa Barbara residents have gathered to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, for the past 14 years. But 6 to 8 p.m. Friday marks only the second annual winter solstice festival, celebrating the longest night of the year.

And although both summer and winter solstice dates are important spiritual markers for many cultures, present and past, "the spirits which inspire winter solstice are quite different from the spirits which inspire summer solstice," said Michelle Bernes, coordinator of the celebration.

So although the highlight of summer solstice is a lighthearted, colorful parade, winter solstice offers a mysterious, magical processional. This year's theme is magic of the night, and a masked sorceress and sorcerer will conjure magical feats, Bernes said.

Revelers are asked to dress in black and white, as they believe a "winter night spirit" looks. They should also bring drums and rattles and meet at the gardens of the Santa Barbara Courthouse at 6 p.m. Musician Jim De Fazio will lead the group in a musical candlelight procession to De La Guerra Plaza, followed by celebratory dancing.

Like its summer counterpart, winter solstice is a non-commercial event and participants' costumes cannot display any slogans, words or recognizable symbols. No animals or motorized vehicles are allowed. Call 964-3727.

What could be a better Christmas gift than a van Gogh? Two van Goghs. Starting Christmas day, the Victoria Street Theatre will begin its run of Robert Altman's critically acclaimed film "Vincent & Theo," a portrait of the van Gogh brothers. Tickets are $6.

Victoria Street Theatre is presenting "The Year's Best Fest," featuring the best foreign films the theater showed in 1990. "Jesus of Montreal," by writer-director Denys Arcand, will conclude its run tonight.

"Henry V" will be shown Friday through Sunday. Written and directed by actor Kenneth Branagh, who portrays Henry V, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards--best director and best actor.

Tickets for festival movies are specially priced at $4. Call 965-1886.

Israel Horovitz's adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale "A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley" will end its run Sunday at the Center Stage Theatre in the Paseo Nuevo shopping center. Show times are 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Weekend matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14.50, $9.50 students and seniors. Call 682-5752.

The Civic Light Opera's production of "Annie" has been extended, with seven shows added at the Lobero Theatre between Wednesday and Dec. 30. Call 963-0761.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" by the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts ends its run at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria on Sunday. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kim Rise's musical tells the biblical story of Joseph through the use of many genres of music, including rock 'n' roll, country-Western and calypso. Show time is 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $8 to $16. Call (800) 221-9469.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will offer a tide-pool exploration and lecture at Carpinteria Reef at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Participants should meet at Carpinteria State Beach, one of the richest and most accessible tide-pool locations along the Santa Barbara coast. Cost $12 adults, $8 children. Call 682-4711.

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