Jewish Journal

A Funny Present Happened Here

by Shoshana Lewin-Fischer

Posted on Dec. 15, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Lighten up your Chanukah without striking a match. Yes, we fought, we won, we ate -- but we can also laugh. While gift-buying is sometimes lumped in the same category as root canals and traffic on the 101, the humorous books, music and DVDs below will make the whole process a lot more fun.

Even better, every item below is available via the Internet. So stay home, put your feet up, crack open some foil-wrapped gelt and get ready for myriad thank-yous from your friends and family, who are so glad you didn't give them socks -- again.

Nap time is Shluffy Girl's favorite time of the day.... Unfortunately, Shluffy Girl's love for sleep sometimes gets her into trouble." While most of us have been there, done that, there are lessons to be learned from Shluffy Girl, the newest character in Anne-Marie Asner's Yiddish-titled Matzah Ball Books series (www.matzahballbooks.com). For $6.95, the Jewish Sleeping Beauty joins Noshy Boy and Shmutzy Girl in making your little ones proud to be Jewish. Also on the market is a Noshy Boy onesie and dishes for the Noshy Boy in your house.

Gingerbread houses might be nice -- but nothing beats a gingerbread menorah. The Popcorn Factory's (www.thepopcornfactory.com) uber-cute Menorah Cookie Kit ($24.99) is a great way to keep the kids entertained during the oh-so-long winter break. The kit comes with a prebaked spice cookie menorah and nine candles, white icing, frosting bag and lots of colorful candies. And did we mention the whole thing is both edible and kosher?

If "Seinfeld" is your religion, then this December you're probably celebrating Festivus. Anyone wanting to know how to truly enjoy Frank Constanza's reaction to the commercialization of Christmas should pick up "Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us," by Jerry Stiller and Allan Salkin (Warner Books, $14.95). Inside you'll find a recipe for chocolate salami and lyrics to that classic tune, "So Good You Do Not Smell." And remember: "Festivus Yes! -- Bagels No!"

Make 2006 go by just a bit funnier with "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents America": The Calendar -- now with August (Warner Books, $11.95). Based on the book of the same name, the desk calendar comes with instructions on how to assemble the darn thing (it's really difficult).

Keep an eye out for the nods to the MOTs, such as on Rosh Hashanah, where the Timeline of Democracy notes that in 1,300 B.C.E., God gives the Ten Commandments -- "and nothing bad ever happens to the Jews again."

You think your family is bad this time of year? What about Holistic New Age Aunt, Uncle Speedo and Child Who Was in a National TV Commercial? All the freaky relations are gathered together in Justin Racz's new book, "50 Relatives Worse Than Yours" (Bloomsbury, $14.95).

Each relative comes with a profile, gift idea, motto, home, benefits and drawbacks. But even if you can't relate, literally and figuratively, to Uncle Speedo, fear not -- Jewish Mother is at No. 23 (and there is room in the back to add in other odd branches of your family tree).

While it's Chanukah at your house, it can be "Springtime for Hitler," as the musical film version of the musical stage version of the nonmusical film, "The Producers," releases its soundtrack (Sony, $18.98). Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Gary Beech and Wisteria Lane's favorite pharmacist, Roger Bart, reprise their roles in Mel Brooks' Tony Award-winning show. The veterans are joined in absurdity by Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman, who actually sings. No, really.

What if you hit your head and woke up in Menorahville -- where everything is bought and sold in gelt, every female is Jewish and single and almost no guy wants to get married? OK, Los Angeles right now isn't too far off, but this stuff is fiction.

Author Laurie Graff takes us to the crazy world of dating in "Eight Dates of Hanukkah," one of the three stories in "Scenes From a Holiday" (Red Dress Ink, $12.95). When singles events planner (and slight commitmentphobe) Nikki Heller lands in a "Chanukoma," it may take more than a miracle to help her find her way out of an endless cycle of the Festival of Lights.

Forget The Wiggles. If you're getting songs stuck in your head, they might as well be Jewish ones from "OyBaby 2" (www.oybaby.com). The DVD ($24.95) and CD ($14.95) are geared toward little ones up to 5 years old and include 15 fun and familiar Hebrew songs by the Schneiderman Sisters, Craig Taubman, Rick Recht and more. Plus, the DVD teaches kids Hebrew and all about tzedakah in a music video format that you won't mind watching over and over and over again. OK, you might, but at least it isn't Barney.

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