A s the Christmas season peaks, New Haven’s holiday traditions and its year-round ones—like thinking critically, viewing live performances and finding special joy in food—get twisted up like a candy cane.
Monday, December 19
At 7 p.m. for $7, the Best Video Film and Cultural Center (1842 Whitney Ave, Hamden; 203-287-9286) hosts the finale to a monthlong series of movies favored by its members. Tonight’s feature is the modern sci-fi classic Contact (1997), which deals with fundamental questions regarding science, religion and government—not to forget ontology, epistemology and morality—about as deftly and provocatively as you could hope for.
Tuesday, December 20
The Institute Library’s next “Listen Here” event, in which short stories curated by members of the New Haven Review are read aloud by members of the New Haven Theater Company, begins tonight at 7 p.m. Customarily harking to a theme, this occasion’s, “short shorts,” doubles down on the format and includes Margaret Atwood’s Happy Endings, Langston Hughes’s Thank You, Ma’am, Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean Well-Lighted Place and Amy Hempel’s The Afterlife. 847 Chapel Street, New Haven. (203) 562-4045. Free.
Wednesday, December 21
Elf The Musical—based on Elf the film, in which an errant child, soon to be named Buddy, becomes a worker in Santa’s workshop, then grows up and tries to reconnect with both his long-lost family and his own species in general—gets seven shows in five days at the Shubert Theater this week. Cheery and family-friendly, the next show happens tonight at 7 p.m. 247 College Street, New Haven. (800) 745-3000. $42-104.
Thursday, December 22
Tonight at Cafe Nine (250 State St, New Haven; 203-789-8281; $5), Full Blast Booking puts on a “local showcase/battle of the bands,” where six acts, ranging from “a frenetic indie three-piece from Newtown” to a West Haven-based rock quartet, hit the stage starting at 8 p.m. Also at 8, there’s KevRock Entertainment’s Holiday Jam—another “local showcase”—at Toad’s Place (300 York St, New Haven; 203-624-8623; $12, or $10 in advance), featuring Mister, Savo, Knockout and Uncle Moose.
Friday, December 23
Though “dirty” is the word John Valby most often uses to describe his voice-and-piano comedy act, “filthy” does it better justice. During Valby’s “XXX-mas Show” tonight at Toad’s Place (300 York St, New Haven; 203-624-8623; $20, or $15 in advance), you can expect taboo topics, pushed boundaries, generous helpings of too much information and, hopefully, a lot of laughs during a special Christmas-themed performance.
Saturday, December 24 – Chanukah begins
Congregation Beth Israel, perhaps better known as Orchard Street Shul, celebrates the first night of Chanukah “in the traditional way—with Chinese food and a movie!” After a “gorgeous musical Havdallah,” or ritual marking the end of the sabbath, the menorah will be lit; a catered, nine-item “kosher Chinese buffet” will be eaten; and “a family-friendly movie,” still to be determined, will be screened. 232 Orchard Street, New Haven. (203) 776-1468. $25, or $15 for kids 12 and under.
Sunday, December 25 – Christmas
Merry Christmas, folks. If you celebrate, you’ve probably got your own things going on. But if you don’t celebrate, or if you don’t have your own things going on, you can still “listen, dance, sing and be joyful” at Congregation Mishkan Israel (785 Ridge Rd, Hamden; 203-288-3877), whose annual Christmas-coincident concert—featuring the klezmer big band Nu Haven Kapelye and, according to NHK founder David Chevan, “an array of guest singers and performers”—starts at 4 p.m. Tickets cost $7, or $5 for seniors/kids, or $20 for families of four or more.
Written and photographed by Dan Mims. Image is an unfocused snap of the city’s Christmas tree on the New Haven Green. Readers are encouraged to verify times, locations and prices before attending events.