Village Holiday Roundup

By Scott Stiffler

Best bets for Yuletide activities

Photo by Ken Howard

The Washington Square Tree (lighting ceremony on December 10, 6 p.m.)

Christmas in the Village is always cause for celebration — unless you’re Jewish; or Muslim; or agnostic; or atheist; or don’t particularly care for festive wreaths and trees. But who among us doesn’t like to receive presents — and get December 25 off of work — and set aside one time of the year when we can spread glad tidings of comfort and joy in a manner befitting H1N1?

To that end, please enjoy our totally biased, not nearly comprehensive list of holiday activities. Some are unabashedly Christian. Some are unabashedly Jewish. Some brazenly mock the season, and some events take place far from the confines of what one can fairly consider to be the Village. Drives you nuts, doesn’t it? But before you fire off an angry email to Scott@thevillager.com, consider the fact that from now until December 25, a jolly old man with a white beard and a naughty/nice list knows full well if you’re being bad or good. So be good, for goodness sake — and you just might end up getting what you want this year!


The Washington Square Association offers two chances to sing carols in downtown’s historic and newly renovated park — one to usher in the holidays, the other hot on the heels of Christmas. Front and center during both events? A 45-foot Christmas tree under the famed Washington Square Park Arch. On Thurs., Dec. 10 at 6 p.m., sing holiday songs accompanied by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet (complimentary songbooks provided!). Then, ooh and aah as the lights on the tree are turned on for the first time (word has it that Santa will lead the children in the illumination countdown). On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 5 p.m., the Rob Susman Brass Quartet returns (along with those complimentary songbooks) to “lustily sing out familiar tunes.” But what to do between Dec. 10 and 24? The tree, in all its glittering splendor, will be lit between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. daily (the Arch is located at the foot of Fifth Ave., one block south of Eighth St.). For information, call 212-252-3621. Visit www.washington-square.org.


The “Chelsea Community Church’s 35th Annual Candlelight Carol Service” will reflect the current challenging economic environment with a deliberately modest approach to this year’s observance — by offering a simple but inspired roster of spirituals, folk-hymnody and popular balladry. You’ll also hear a rarely heard arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” by the eminent British composer Andrew Carter. Longtime Chelsea resident Denise Lute (who you might recognize from “Law and Order” or “Guiding Light”) will read Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” FREE (some proceeds from the offering will benefit the St. Peter’s Food Pantry). Dec. 13, 6:00 p.m. at St. Peter’s Chelsea (346 W. 20th St., btw. 8th and 9th Aves.). Visit www.chelseachurch.org.


92Y Tribeca, and the Jewish people, have the right idea when it comes to having a good time every year on December 25. No tree, no family drama — just Chinese food and movies. But why the enduringly mediocre 1987 Mel Brooks film “Spaceballs” — haven’t those people suffered enough? At least the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and 2:30 p.m.’s “Blazing Saddles” will push the day into the plus column. As for 4 p.m.’s “Spaceballs” — leave early or get some booze (available at the bar). Doors open at 2 p.m. on Dec. 25; at 92YTribeca (200 Hudson St.). $25 in advance/$30 at the door. Call 212-601-1000 or visit www.92ytribeca.org.


A tradition since 1974, the West Village Caroling Walk is sponsored by The West Village Chorale — founded a mere three years before they came up with this amiable annual event. On Dec. 18 at 7:00 p.m., meet in the school cafeteria off the rear courtyard of the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields (487 Hudson St., 1 block south of Christopher St.). Then, stroll through the historic, Dickens-like neighborhood as you sing seasonal carols and songs. Refreshments, conviviality, and more singing follow back at the St. Luke’s school cafeteria. Free for the whole family; song sheets provided. For information, call 212-517-1776 or visit www.westvillagechorale.org.

Photo by Sadiki Rouse

Urban Ballet Theater’s “Nutcracker in the Lower”


The Urban Ballet Theater does their part to reinvent holiday tradition by bringing a Lower East Side sensibility to that thoroughly roasted chestnut known as “The Nutcracker.” Tchaikovsky’s original score remains largely intact — but gets a funky injection of baselines and flamenco. Krumping rats, hip hop choreography and crooked hats combine to make this production a natural expression of the multilayered community of NYC’s Lower East Side. Now being performed for the ninth consecutive year, UBT’s reimagining of this classic has become a classic of its own. Through Dec. 5; at Abrons Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement (466 Grand St. at Pitt St.). For tickets and schedule information, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.theatermania.com.


The Village-based children’s theater company Literally Alive Theater presents their family-friendly musical version of “A Christmas Carol” — that oft-told Dickens tale which takes a nasty old miser from humbug to redemption. Sight unseen, it’s sure to be more entertaining and less disturbing than the Jim Carrey version currently haunting the movies. Through Dec. 30th at the Players Theatre (115 MacDougal St., btw. 3rd & Bleecker).  For a schedule, visit www.literallyalive.com. For tickets, visit www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/666025 or call 212-352-3101. Tickets may be purchased at the box office, which opens 11 a.m. daily. Use the coupon code “Villager” to save 20%. Ticket price includes 10 a.m. pre-show arts workshop (show at 11 a.m.).


Worried that too much genuine Christmas cheer will take the edge off your too-cool-for-school downtown reputation? Banana Bag & Bodice celebrates year #10 of their existence with this meaty treat that examines the art of eating and the blind act of consumption during the festive holiday season. Overstuffed animals, a four-piece orchestra and an original score help make the playful, provocative, horrific medicine go down. Dec. 3 through 19; Wed.-Fri. @ 8pm, Sat at 7/9 p.m. (special show Dec. 14, 8 p.m.); at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St. at Pitt St.). For tickets ($20/$25), visit www.theatermania.com or call 212-352-3101.


Equal parts morality tale and vaudevillian tragedy, this examination of the seedy underbelly of Frank Capra’s 1946 flick “It’s a Wonderful Life” mines the irony of that title for all it’s worth. How? By bypassing hero George Bailey and concentrating on the “outwardly clowning/inwardly seething” supporting character of Sam Wainwright. He’s the guy who coveted George’s gal Mary, blew that hick town, made good, and ended up saving Bailey’s financial behind while calling attention to the fact that he could buy and sell them all — Old Man Potter included! Dec. 4 through 20 (Thurs., Fri, Sat. at 7 p.m.; Sun, 5 p.m.) at Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E. 3rd St., btw. Avenues B & C): For tickets ($18), visit www.nuyorican.org/theater.php.


Composer Phil Kline leads a massive chorus of boomboxes from the West Village to the East Village in the 18th annual holiday presentation of “Unsilent Night” — a free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs and MP3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through the city streets. Bring your own boomboxes and drift peacefully through a cloud of sound which is different from every listener’s perspective. Phil Kline will hand out a limited number of boomboxes — and cassettes and CDs for those who bring their own players. MP3 downloads of the individual tracks will be available on the Unsilent Night website. This FREE event is held whether it rains, snows, sleets or shines. On Dec. 12, participants should arrive by 6:45 p.m. at the Washington Square Arch (at the foot of Fifth Ave., one block south of Eighth St.). For details, visit www.unsilentnight.com.


With longtime host H.R. Britton having ditched the Big Apple for Beantown, the final edition of this storytelling series gives you one last chance to share your best and worst memories of enjoying (or simply surviving) the holiday season. Audience members are invited to best the pros with three-minute tales of their own. And those pros are? Writer/teacher Suzie Sims-Fletcher, DJ Hazard, Rajeev Varma and Rivka Widerman. No familiar with their work? Spend three minutes on Google and emerged sufficiently impressed. Sad about the final installment of this series? Tenement Talks hopes to launch a new storytelling series sometime in early 2010, so keep your eyes peeled. Thurs., Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m. at the Tenement Museum Shopv (108 Orchard St.). Call 212-982-8430 or visit www.tenement.org.


Sure that Jesus was not the son of God because God surely does not exist? Hang out with the NYC Atheists. Their annual December event is known for its wild, anything-goes “Toasting Mike” open mic-type happening — where you’re invited to take the stage and toast friends, recite poems, tell jokes, or just mouth off to your heart’s content. The end result? A room full of people who “don’t have to be perfect, or even good” so long as they “share warm feelings and holiday cheer with cheery, ebullient, supportive friends!” $35 admission gets you appetizers, main course, dessert, one soft drink, tax, tip and all the Xmas trash talk you can take! Sat., Dec. 19, 1:00 p.m. at Les Sans Culottes (1085 Second Ave. at 57 St.). For information, call 212-330-6794 or visit www.nyc.atheists.org.


This live concert is part of the Lost & Found music series — highlighting musical legacies that are at risk of disappearing. Every year on Dec. 25, Klez for Kids presents a family concert where you can sing, dance and learn Yiddish. The program ends with a sentimental and very likely adorable audience-enacted Shtetle wedding — with kids taking on the roles of bride, groom and wedding guests. Clarinetist Greg Wall and his band Klezmerfest lead you on this musical tour of Eastern European Jewish culture. Fri., Dec. 25, 11 a.m. at the Museum at Eldridge St. (12 Eldrigde St., btw Canal and Division). To order tickets ($12 for adults, $8 for children, students, seniors, call 212-219-0888, x205 or visit www.eldridgestreet.org.

RACHEL SAGE: “Tchatchkes & Latkes!”

Art-Pop Songstress Rachel Sage — who’s been likened to a Lilith Fair indie rocker by way of a Catskills Vaudevillian, presents a campy, post-Hanukah-pre-Christmas event which combines playful tall tales with written-on-the-spot, topical compositions. All that will be weaved around performances gleaned from her eight-album discography. Also on display alongside her badass, eclectic self? Sage’s extensive menorah collection! Guests include cellist Dave Eggar (Coldplay, The Who) and YouTube singing sensation Michelle “Rosh Hashanah Girl” Citrin. Dec. 23, 9:30 p.m. at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St.). For tickets ($12), call 212-539-8777. Visit www.rachaelsage.com.


The second annual installment of this event showcases handmade wares and local works from over 50 vendors in categories such as clothing, home décor, jewelry, accessories, toys, paper goods, bath and body products. Grab a snack, enjoy the atmosphere, rub shoulders with the artists and take home a few reasonably priced items for those you love — or just yourself. FREE. Sat., Dec. 5, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Openhouse Gallery (201 Mulberry St.). For information, visit www.handmadecavalcade.com.


Peace on Earth and goodwill to mankind during the middle of an armed conflict? It actually happened. This dramatization of the famed Christmas Truce of World War I follows a squad of front-line British soldiers — who, with their German counterparts, shook hands, shared cigarettes and sang Christmas carols together during a brief interruption in fighting that occurred on Dec. 24 and 25, 1914. The play was developed from diaries, letters and newspaper accounts. Recommended for audiences aged 11 and up. Tues.-Fri. at 8:00 p.m., Sat. at 2:00 pm and 8:00 p.m.; Sun. at 7:00 p.m.; Dec. 11 to Jan. 2 (skips Christmas week), at Hudson Guild Theatre (441 West 26th St.). For $15 tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com. On Fri, Jan. 1 pay what you can.


Poets House presents this annual exhibition, and celebration, of the illustrated chapbooks of Robert Frost’s poetry (which were sent out by the revered poet as holiday greetings). It began in 1929 — when Master-printer Joseph Blumenthal printed 275 cards as a holiday greeting for himself, Henry Holt and Company and two Holt executives. Blumenthal mistakenly forgot to print any for the poet — who subsequently charged Blumenthal with the task of retrieving a half a dozen cards for him to use. The next holiday chapbook was published in collaboration with Frost in 1934 with a print run of 775 and became an annual publication until 1962. Want to see that little history lesson to come alive? You’ve got until January 16, 2010. At Poets House (10 River Terrace at Murray St.). Call 212-431-7920 or visit www.poetshouse.org. 


Not content to have just one holiday-themed happenings, the forward-thinking historians at Merchant’s House serve up four events. Wed. Dec. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m., their “19th-Century Holiday Party” takes you back to the decorations, delicacies and drinks of the era — along with a silent auction, gift bazaar, caroling. $25, reservations required. Then, Wed. Dec. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m., “To All, Wassail” is a Concert of 19th-Century Holiday Songs and Stories courtesy of The Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society. $25, reservations required. On Fri., Jan. 1 from 3 to 6 p.m., “Come Calling: New Year’s Day Open House” invites you to relive the elegance of Old New York’s most important holiday — when gentlemen sallied forth to pay respects to all their neighbors in honor of the New Year ($20). Finally, through Jan. 11, “New Year’s Day in Old New York” is an exhibition featuring scenes of holiday preparation which show how mid-19th century New Yorkers celebrated New Year’s Day — once the most important day of the year, now simply the first day to start breaking resolutions made the night before. This event is included with regular Museum admission ($8 general, $5 for students/seniors). Museum hours: Thur. through Mon., Noon to 5 p.m.; all above events are at Merchant’s House Museum (29 E. Fourth St.). Call 212-777-1089 or visit www.merchantshouse.org.


Horse Trade Theater Group and Barefoot Productions present Israel Horovitz’s stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” What is a gifted playwright like Horovitz doing devoting his talents to this way-too-often told tale? Apparently, bringing out the bizarre elements in order to balance out the heart-warming schmaltz — by scrupulously following the original while adding elements of theatricality which our producers vow will “enhance and strengthen its timeless virtue.” See for yourself if that’s hyperbole, humbug or straight talk. Dec. 10-12, 16-19, 22-23 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 13, 20 at 3 p.m.; at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th St. btw. 2nd Ave. and Bowery). For tickets ($18), call 212-868-4444 or visit www.horseTRADE.info.