By David Goldberg
Ever played hookie, or stayed in town through a hurricane evacuation? Each Christmas, Houston’s Jews get to relive the feeling of dropping all responsibilities (both occupational and familial) and doing whatever they please in an otherwise empty town. So hold off from agreeing to any stuffy ham dinners—you may be missing out on your greatest skip-days ever.
The Dark Side of Christmas
Feeling jealous of those happy Christian polar bears in the Coca-Cola commercials? Then experience the true horror of Christmas at The Santaland Diaries, a one-elf account of the frightening holiday-shopping frenzy at Macy’s. This dark comedic play, based on David Sedaris’ grim account of being hired to play one of Santa’s elves, will make you thankful that gifts on Hanukkah aren’t really a thing. The Alley Theatre, December 4–31; no performances on Christmas Day.
The Night Before
While nice millennial-aged gentiles around town brace themselves for constricting sweaters and tense family confrontations, Houston’s wiliest young Israelites will be partying like it’s 5776 at the 29th annual Matzo Ball. The only caveat of this night of tribal tomfoolery is that you’ll likely run into every single person you ever went to Hebrew school with. So beware: it may well be that your Bar Mitzvah-era crush aged very nicely—and he or she may also remember what you looked like with braces, and before you got your graduation nose job. Vao Nightclub, December 24, 9pm–2am. $30.
Run All Morning
For just one sweet day, you can exercise free from the judging eyes of hot people. While the sculpted Aryans of Houston unwrap their presents, you can dash through the streets with the knowledge that they can’t offend you with their cheekbones. And with a dearth of traffic, your neighborhood will make for a glorious personal jogging track.
Actually Go to Shul
Friday nights for most of us involve taking off our pants and lying supine until the ice cream thaws. But since you’ll be feeling rested and refreshed on this December 25 Shabbat, why not head to temple, gather with the tribe, and get a spiritual jumpstart on 2016 while you’re feeling game.
Sidebar 1: Movies and Chinese Food
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If there’s any day to waste money on popcorn, it’s December 25, and theater employees with shifts on the biggest holiday of the year will be overjoyed to oblige you. If you don’t want to be spotted by every member of your community-center board, aerobics class, school faculty, and book club as you celebrate the birth of Christ by going out for Chinese food, we recommend wearing a gorilla suit. Here’s the best pick of flicks to catch on the big day.
Sisters. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reverse their shtick in this new light comedy. Longtime SNL writer and out lesbian Paula Pell mined her own experiences as “the other sister” to write this gem about grown-up sisters cleaning out their childhood home. Opens December 18.
Casablanca. You finally have time to watch one of the greatest love stories ever told. Take a nap and head out for a late night of gin joints, tarmacs, and Ingrid Bergman in hats. River Oaks Theatre, December 25–26, midnight.
Carol. If Bogart and Bergman play it a bit too straight for you, then delight in the delicate romance between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Todd Haynes’ sumptuous new film, based on Patricia Highsmith’s controversial 1953 novel. This mid-century affair will deliver your most electrifying queer Christmas since Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal made us all feel very merry in 2005.
Sidebar 2: Two Days to Binge
Spend your silent night catching up on essential new series and recent online movie releases.
American Horror Story: Hotel. Lady Gaga and Angela Bassett chew through scenery and men in the most decadent installment of this gay nightmare anthology. FX
Billy on the Street. The charismatic and batty Billy Eichner confronts strangers and celebrities about the monstrosities of mainstream culture—from Taylor Swift to The Big Bang Theory—with vicious glee. TBS, truTv
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. If you’re a single Jewess with nobody to kiss under the mistletoe, then you’ll certainly find solace in Rachel Bloom’s loony musical comedy series. CW.
Sense8. Take an hour (or 12) to play in The Wachowski’s unprecedented queer experiment of sci-fi, fluidity, and human interconnection. Don’t let your neighbors hear you panting. Netflix
New Online On-Demand Additions
Labyrinth. This goblin song-and-sorcery classic is almost 30 years old, but David Bowie proves to be timeless when it comes to having a gas. Netflix, December 1
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. If your brushes with former Hebrew-school crushes leave you reminiscing, then revisit Sagebrush High with your favorite semi-employed Post-it queens. Tuscon, here we come! Netflix, December 18
A League of Their Own. Double-down on ’90s woman-worship with Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna as your holy saints. Amazon Prime, December 1
Jewtopia. Decide on how convincingly Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a Jewess in love in this indie gem based on the hit play. Netflix, December 1
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.