Jewschool: December Without Drama

Originally published on Jewschool.

Interfaith CardsLast year, the Jewish community fell all over itself to merchandise the intersection of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, but we all know that outside this special exception, the organized community tends to look down at the mixing of Jewish holidays and those of other faiths. Alexis Gewertz and Chelsea Scudder, two New Englanders from interfaith backgrounds with divinity school educations, aim to change that. They are the creators of Happy Challadays, a new line of greeting cards for those looking to celebrate the holidays without the drama of the “December Dilemma.”

The idea grew out of Alexis’s own experience as both the daughter of an interfaith marriage and as the Jewish partner in a Jewish-Catholic relationship. “It was a Christmas home growing up,” she told me, “but we started celebrating Hanukkah when my parents got divorced. My mom wanted to send me Christmas cards because we really do celebrate with both families, but she spends the whole year searching for interfaith cards that she can send to me and [my partner] Steve together. In the past she’s found maybe three really awesome ones.”

It turns out, greeting cards are sort of a passion for Alexis. “I love capturing my thoughts and the vibe of the moment when I’m writing a card and putting it in the mail,” she said, “knowing that a few days later, whenever the recipients check the mail, they’re going to get this message. These days people are used to getting email instantly. I love with cards the old-school mystery of ‘is it going to take one day or three days?’ not knowing at what point they’re going to check that mail. I love getting cards because I love knowing that someone is thinking about me, and I feel that connection across the miles in a way that isn’t the same with virtual connections.” Continue reading

Camp vs. Kitsch: Wishing You A Joyous Life Day

Originally published on Camp vs. Kitsch

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special, the timeless classic in which Han and Luke help Chewie return home to celebrate “Life Day” with his family on his home planet. The special starred all the original Star Wars actors, plus Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, Jefferson Starship, and she who had yet to become everyone’s favorite Golden Girl, Bea Arthur. The special is best remembered for introducing the character of Boba Fett in an animated sequence, and worst remembered for generally sucking in every possible way.

I was only eight months old when the special aired, so I can’t speak for what the hooplah around its original airing might have been. The special has taken on an unintended life as an object of fascination in part because it seems to be the only Star Wars artifact that George Lucas will not exploit to enlarge his coffers. So the question that plagues me is this: was the special originally created as a cash-grab to milk the then-new Star Wars phenomenon, or was this actually an attempt at artistic expression by Lucas (in which case, none of us have anyone to blame for our surprise at the suckitude of the prequels except for ourselves). In other words, does this qualify as Camp, or was it only ever intended to be kitsch?

And then there’s Maude…
What could possibly hold up in competition against this… whatever it is? Clearly, I needed to go back to the well of Christmas Specials, and to level the playing field, I thought it would help to focus on pop culture obsessions of the late 1970s. And next to Star Wars, what was the biggest pop culture obsession of the late 1970s? Annie. And luckily, the original Broadway cast of Annie also produced a Christmas special. I’ve seen less of this one than the Star Wars special, but there’s a clip on YouTube featuring the late Dorothy Loudon, the Tony-winning actress who created the role of Miss Hannigan, trying to coax the orchestra into playing at the Christmas party.

Friends of Dorothy?
So here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure the Annie Christmas Special was definitely a cash grab, or at best a sort of infomercial for the show. But for my money, I’d say this clip is far classier and more entertaining than anything in the entire Star Wars special. To be fair, I am pitting what is likely the best moment of the Annie show from what is among the worst moments (of a show full of worse and worse moments). But, it’s my blog so there you go. Want to argue? Click on the comment button. And whatever you think, cast your vote!

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