Culture Compass: Dreaming of winter break

A&E plans your weekend.

Callie Sacarelos

Friday

Much like today, 70 years ago American troops were overseas and weren’t able to spend the holidays with their families. Thankfully, charitable groups like the United Service Organization brought celebrity performers and a little holiday cheer to servicemen and women. This led Minnesota’s own singing sensation, the Andrew Sisters, to become synonymous with both WWII-era entertainers and the face of the USO. The History Theatre brings back its sound along with Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby and Abbott & Costello in this truly classic holiday production.

Christmas of Swing
History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul
8 p.m.
$30-40

 

Saturday

Imagine the plotline of a holiday TV special. The town’s annual winter celebration is in full swing, and everyone is on track to enjoy yet another perfect Christmas. But oh no! There’s a villain in town who wants to ruin everything. Now the town must come together and save Christmas. “An Unscripted Minnesota Holiday” is an improvisational twist on a holiday classic: The audience names the town, creates the holiday and selects who will be the hero of the evening. To add to the chaos, a different guest actor plays the villain every evening, and the show is a musical, with all songs improvised on the spot.

An Unscripted Minnesota Holiday
Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
7 p.m.
$13 in advance with a Fringe button or student ID; $15 at door

 

Sunday

This satirical account of working as an elf at Macy’s during the holiday shopping season is perfect for any Scrooge who looks at Christmas and sees commercialism and overconsumption. The script is adapted almost verbatim from New York Times best-selling author David Sedaris’ essay of the same title. His snarky and irreverent observations about Christmas merriment, bratty children and the absurdity of Santa Claus brings about a different kind of “holiday cheer” that will leave you in stitches.

The Santaland Diaries
The Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
2 p.m.
$29

 

CULTURE TO CONSUME

 

Re-live this: Old Christmas cartoons on YouTube

My family used to own a two-tape VHS compilation of Christmas cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s that we watched year-round. I recently discovered that most of the cartoons are available on YouTube. My personal favorites are “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” (1936), “Santa’s Surprise” (1947) and “Somewhere in Dreamland” (1936). They’re a short and sweet breath of fresh air from tired childhood classics like Charlie Brown and Rudolph.

 

Do this: Sledding

This is a pastime that never gets old but is often forgotten as we trade in our practical one-piece snowsuits for pretty scarves and fashionable-but-freezing pea coats. Good sledding weather conditions are rare, so round up your warmest gear and buy a cheap sled from the hardware store now so you’ll be ready to go. It’s nice when the sun is out, the wind is calm and a fresh layer of snow ensures that you won’t careen out of control on a giant ice hill. Columbia Golf Club in Northeast has one of the steepest hills in the city, and for you lazy folks, Theodore Wirth Park offers a tow rope. I grew up going down the Town and Country Club hill just east of the Lake Street Bridge. The north hill is for families, and the south hill is where all the snowboarders and cool kids go to break their necks.

 

Bake this: Christmas cookies

Everyone has their favorite Christmas cookie, but Peanut Butter Blossoms are a sure crowd-pleaser. They’re easy to make, they have the perfect combination of Hershey’s Kisses and peanut butter, and they look fancy. There are tons of recipes available online, and the instructions are simple. The trick is to pull the cookies out of the oven a minute or two before they’re finished and press the Hershey’s Kiss into the middle before popping them back into the oven for the final minute. This gives the outside of the kiss a gooey center.