Eleven months out of the year, elves don't get a lot of respect. They jingle down the street in their striped tights and bell-tipped shoes, trying to keep a low profile beneath their pointy hats, but they are constantly picked on by tall bullies. "Hey! Go back to your tree and make some cookies!" the people shout. Watch it, buster. These are toy-making elves, and they don't appreciate your insensitive comments. Today you can show your support of the little ones when Santa gives his helpers some time off to enjoy their day in the sun at the 23rd annual Santa's Parade of the Elves at the Shops at Sunset Place (Sunset Drive and South Dixie Highway). Surrounded by beautiful holiday floats and skipping to the jovial beat of marching bands, elves will stand tall and spread holiday cheer. Santa is also looking for new recruits, so parents can sprinkle their children (infants to sixth-graders) with elfin magic and bring them to South Miami City Hall (6130 Sunset Dr.) at 1:00 p.m. Elves will receive a holiday ribbon and can march right behind the Lead Elf. The parade begins at 2:00, and the Carrollton School choir will sing carols on the steps of the mall at 4:00. Admission is free. Call 305-663-3543.
For elves with an aversion to sunlight, the annual Hollywood Beach Candy Cane Parade is a festive night parade that wends along the Broadwalk and A1A beginning at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, December 3. More than 100 floats, marching bands, and vehicles will compete for prizes. Admission is free. Call 954-921-3404. Lyssa Oberkreser
On Christmas Eve, little children the world over will struggle to sleep, dreaming fitfully until morning, when they scamper to the glittering tree to open their long-awaited presents. When it comes to delivering packages of holiday joy, Santa doesn't stop with humans. The furry, funny critters at Miami Metrozoo (12400 SW 152nd St., Miami) also have a lot to look forward to this holiday season. Be there Sunday, December 4, at 11:30 a.m., when the orangutans will happily tear open wrapped boxes of the fruits they love. Today at 11:00 a.m. the tigers will get their gifts, which will most certainly be raw and meaty. Call 305-255-5551, or visit www.miamimetrozoo.com. Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Toys can make it merry
Drinking and charity what two things could possibly make you feel better this season? (Don't answer that, you ho-ho-ho.) Show Santa you've been nice: Buy a new unwrapped toy and sashay over to the Doral Golf Resort & Spa (4400 NW 87th Ave., Miami) tonight for the Hot Holiday cocktail bash. (Fret not tasty Caribbean cuisine banishes fruitcake from the buffet table.) The Kids & Families Foundation aims to collect 2000 toys for children awaiting everything from bone marrow transplants to chemo at Jackson Memorial Hospital's cancer clinic. Many of these young people will celebrate the holidays in the hospital, so spend big, and then you can campaign for that video iPod without the guilt. The music, dancing, and drinking runs from 8:00 to 11:00. Tickets cost $50, with discounts for groups of four and ten. Call 305-593-2644, ext. 107. Holly Hickman
You Call That a Tree?
Designers get wacky with the green
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The most fashionable tree this Christmas season is a $600 upside-down beauty from Hammacher Schlemmer. Maybe it has something to do with mimicking the millions of trees uprooted by the hurricanes this year, but it's so hot that the seven-foot prelit wonder is already sold out. The coolest trees, though, are at Florida International University's nineteenth annual Festival of the Trees. Here the area's best professional designers and architects have created artificial flora using components and materials that can be unusual and surprising. Behold the glitzy tannenbaum at a preview gala tonight from 5:30 to 9:00 at One Brickell Square (801 Brickell Ave., Miami). Tickets costs $50 and include a buffet and live music. Net proceeds will go into the Gloria Blake Interior Design Scholarship Fund to benefit FIU's School of Architecture. The trees will be on free display tomorrow through December 28. Call 305-447-1400. Margaret Griffis
Gifts of No Return
Go ahead, admit it. You've already spent your holiday gift money on that new iPod and flat-panel, widescreen TV you bought for yourself. But there's no need to fret or return those fabulous gifts you so deserve, because you can pick up some presents on the cheap at the First Church of North Miami Congregational Pre-Holiday Rummage & Bake Sale. You'll find plenty of estate sale items, furniture, kitchenware, and bric-a-brac, in addition to handmade ornaments, holiday decorations, and baked goods you can pass off as your own. Grab your bargains today from 9:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m. at Fellowship Hall, 1200 NE 135th St., North Miami. Admission is free. Call 305-891-5286. Lyssa Oberkreser