An Atlanta tradition for more than 40 years, Atlanta Ballet rings in the holiday season with a whimsical performance of THE NUTCRACKER, continuing Thurs., DEC. 18. Artistic director John McFall gives this timeless tale a few new twists but maintains the childlike wonder with dancing snowflakes, mischievous mice and a Christmas tree that grows to 38 feet tall in the span of a night. For nearly a decade, the Atlanta Ballet has mesmerized audiences with its innovative performances and has rooted itself as a staple within our city's many cultural delights. A trip to the ballet for The Nutcracker has become a holiday tradition in itself, much like trimming the tree and sipping on eggnog. But if mice start dancing around under our tree, we're calling the exterminator. Through Dec. 28. $11-$85. 7:30 p.m.; Tues., Fri.-Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 24, 1 p.m.; no 7 p.m. performance Dec. 28. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. 404-817-8700. www.atlantaballet.com.