Before heading off for a long winter’s nap, I thought it would only be fitting to send you into the holidays with visions of sugarplums and such. So, here is my Christmas wish for you all, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, here’s hoping the Internet waves simultaneously translate my wishes and retrofit them to the holiday of your choice, whatever your faith or creed. Whatever holiday language you speak: May these days be merry and bright. And if it’s a little bit of fun you’re wanting, keep reading for some ideas on holiday Theatre, Film, TV, Books, Art and Music. You may find a few surprises …
There’s always the show that tourists flock to year after year, the one that made Radio Street into Radio City (well … maybe not) … the one that takes a dazzling line of chorus gals, snaps some antlers on their heads, shoots them with a cannon, then makes them do a tap routine 50 times before the season is up. Yes, I’m talking about the Radio City Christmas Spectacular which I reviewed right around this time last year, with about the same amount of cheekiness. However, truth is, I actually do get a bit of a lump in my throat every time I go, so if schmaltz is your thing, this is the way to go.
Speaking of schmaltz, what could be more Christmassy than a song written by Mr. Irving Berlin, Jewish composer extraordinaire and the man who brought us White Christmas? If it’s a schmaltzy time you want, it’s a schmaltzy time you’ll get at White Christmas running now until January 3rd.
If that’s not Jewish enough for you, why not check out The Klezmer Nutcracker … “Sara is miserable at the family Chanukah party. But when mysterious Tante Miriam arrives with the gift of a Golden Dreydl, everything changes.” Sounds good to me!
But maybe all this sounds a little too traditional for a jaded New Yorker like you? Well, then check out Christine Pedi’s Holly Jolly Christmas Folly playing for 9 performances at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. You can catch her during those down days between the bookend holidays (Saturday December 26 through Wednesday December 30) as she sings “yuletide hits with a twist”.
But what if tradition is your bag? Then by all means, check out the old Dickens classic A Christmas Carol being done at the 13th Street Repertory Company till January 10th. Plenty of time to go get your Scrooge on.
I am not even going to act like I don’t have a bias here. Yes, there’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Yawn. Zuzu’s petals … I get it. We ALL get it. And we’ve all been getting it for mumble mumble years. And Miracle on 34th Street? Yes, yes. Lovely. Santa, mailbags … darling Natalie Wood as a child. Meet Me In St. Louis? Well … it’s just got the one song, really. And even my absolute favorite, A Christmas Story, is starting to wear on me a bit. (JUST A BIT!). So, for your consideration, I submit some newer thoughts on the subject (no … not The Santa Clause … don’t worry) that actually get me most in the holiday mood:
I came late to Elf. I didn’t see it in the movie theatre where (I suspect) I would have had the best time with it. Instead, I stumbled upon it one Saturday afternoon and within minutes fell in love. It’s not like I’m the biggest Will Farrell fan … but director Jon Favreau just did everything right to put me in a true Christmas mood. Plus, Zooey Deschanel singing Baby It’s Cold Outside in the shower while Farrell wistfully sings along is as heartwarming a scene as Jimmy Stewart hugging his family. With terrific candy coated nuggets like Edward Asner as Santa and some of the funniest lines you’ll hear in a Christmas movie, I vote that this become the new go-to holiday flick.
Not every Christmas movie has to have Christmas in the whole thing, by the way … which is why my other nomination is Edward Scissorhands. Check out the scene below to see why sharp knives, gothy black hair and ice sculptures will always mean “Christmas” to me.
Of all the media which has evolved through the years, I’m happiest with how TV has grown. (Good job, TV!) I love that I started watching LOST on iTunes, then switched to watching it on ABC.com. I have Netflixed entire shows from first to last episode, never having seen one single moment of it on conventional TV. And thanks to hulu.com you can get your fix of holiday episodes RIGHT NOW if you’re near a computer of any type (and if you’re reading this, you probably are). Say you’d like your Charlie Brown dose (either I Want A Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown or the classic Charlie Brown Christmas). Done! Maybe you’re sitting there staring at the Secret Santa present you received and you’d like to see what TV has to say about that … then check in with the crew of The Office or 30 Rock to see their take on it. In a Seth MacFarlane mood? (I know I am!) Then you’ll want to watch American Dad’s Most Adequate Christmas Ever or A Cleveland Brown Christmas. And if none of that appeals to you, try the non-traditionally titled A Very Gilly Christmas from SNL or The Goop On The Girl from Bones. Put your feet up, grab a cup of cocoa (extra marshmallows … tis the season!), and settle in for some good ole TV viewing.
The great thing about a book is that it can help you express your inner snark privately. To others (on the subway, let’s say, or that long flight home) you just look like you’re reading a normal book, but what you’re really doing is inwardly chuckling your way through Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris – a collection of essays all based on Christmas. The 1997 version contains The SantaLand Diaries which details Sedaris’ time spent as a Macy’s elf,
Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!! which, I swear, was not that far off from some of those way-too-chatty holiday newsletters I’ve received in Christmas Cards Past, Dinah, the Christmas Whore (just what it sounds like), Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol – grade school pageant at its best, and rounding off with Based on a True Story and Christmas Means Giving. If you spring for the new version you get six additional stories, or opt for the audio version and here every nuanced word come right out of David Sedaris’ mouth (follow this link for a hilarious snippet). You may also want to pick up a copy of “The SantaLand Diaries & Seasons Greetings: 2 Plays” so that you can act it all out with your friends who’ve come home for the winter break.
Not everything is about Santa or his Elves. Did you know that there is a nasty little critter known as a Krampus who is said to accompany good ole St. Nick … punishing the children who have been bad, like a Christmas good cop/bad cop scenario? Actually, he does more than punish them, he carries them away and then throws them into the fiery pits of hell. THAT should teach you to be naughty!
Some Krampus fellows appear to be a little less brutal, like this chap below, rendered by artist Travis Louie. For some more amiable Krampuses (Krampii?) check out his website.
I could try and do what this guy has already done, but frankly I could never do it as thoroughly, with as much charm, as much joy, and as much panache as The King of Jing-a-ling who put together a site called Falalalala.com that has totally cool links to every type of Christmas album you can imagine and then some … not to mention links to other fun things like Antique Christmas Lights, The Yule Log and topics I didn’t cover here because he did a much better job than I ever could. So if you want a one-stop-shopping Christmas site, you’ll be happy you checked it out.
and finally …
LIGHTS, CAMERA … SANTA!
This Brooklyn tradition of covering every square inch of your home in lights is a bombardment of every type of media, so I’m giving it it’s own category … as well as sending it to you as my final thought. Having grown up in Brooklyn this sight is nothing new to me, however every year that I take a drive over to Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights (as I did earlier this month) I never cease to delight in the glow of lights, the smiles on the people’s faces as they see the giant displays, and the wonderfully festive mood it puts me in. If you’re up for a drive, get yourself here: