An Only-In-Frisco Chanukah

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Travel Writer

Last year, I wrote about Chanukah activities in San Francisco.

This year, the topic is Christmas.

Yes, Christmas. Those ever-hip San Francisco Jews not only know how to celebrate Chanukah in wildly original style; they’ve also got Christmas covered. An array of events around town ensures that no bored Jew, in town for a visit and staring into closed shop windows, has to make do with Chinese and a movie.

Let’s start with the raunchiest fun: strip dreidel and dancing around the Chanukah bush (really) at the Make-Out Room, a darkly lit lounge in the trendy Mission District.

“Spend Christmas in the company of the ‘chosen’ people … chosen to be alienated and bored stiff when everything is closed on Christmas,” teases the “Jewish Christmas” flyer for the bar — a local favorite for its deep booths, elk-head decor, and cheap drinks.

In an effort to counter the boredom, the Make-Out Room will screen films by Woody Allen and Sacha Baron Cohen, spin tunes with local deejays, and yes, invite the daring to bare it all in a strip dreidel game. There’s a Chinese food buffet — but like everything else in San Francisco, it’s ironic. Admission is $10 for drop-ins, $5 if you RSVP by e-mail.

If a Chanukah bush isn’t kitschy enough for you, try the venerable Jewish-Christmas yukathon that is Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. For two decades, locals and visitors alike have flocked to the group’s annual Christmas show, with headliners like Elaine Boosler and Henny Youngman (this year it’s Judy Gold) — and Chinese food that, as they like to remind you, is not as kosher as the comedy.

The 20th anniversary event, “Jewish Comedy on Xmas in a Chinese Restaurant,” offers two shows a day from Dec. 22-25 at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown, where patrons can choose from dinner and cocktail menus.

Maybe Vegas is more your thing? You won’t have to travel farther than the Razz Room, a downtown nightclub where cabaret, jazz and comedy reign supreme. On the 25th, Las Vegas comedy lounge act Bud E. Luv will give his annual Christmas show, with Sinatra anecdotes and Bobby Darrin and Sammy Davis Jr. impressions at the blub, which promises “Vegas By the Bay, Baby.”

The Razz Room is just steps from Union Square, the heart of downtown San Francisco, where a glittering Christmas tree is reflected by the holiday windows at Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Many travelers stay in the hotels that cluster around the square, which is lively even on the slowest winter days.

From now through Jan. 21 — including Christmas — you can try a spin around the seasonal Union Square Ice Rink, with a view of all the lights and action. At $10, it’s one of the cheapest amusements in San Francisco.

Just off the square, the mega-lounge and dance club Ruby Skye is the venue for the annual Latke Ball on Christmas Eve. Aimed at the young, single and noise-tolerant, this event draws as many as 1,000 young Jews from the city and around the Bay Area. It’s sponsored by YAD, the Young Adult Division of Jewish Community Federation.

Those in town with children might head to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where Target is sponsoring free admission all day for “CJM Community Day” on the 25th. Activities will be organized to complement “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” a retrospective of the Brooklyn-born Jewish children’s illustrator.

Kids can roll up their sleeves and add their colors to the Keats Community Mural, or design their own Keats-inspired book bags. The popular Bay Area band Octopretzel will perform three shows during the day; tickets to the concerts are free and they go fast. With a handy café and a nice museum shop, there’s something to keep everyone occupied at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

If all else fails, you can always drink away the holiday at Riptide Bar in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, where city meets Pacific at misty Ocean Beach. The Riptide, as it’s known, is notorious for Jewish-Christmas action, with a big Jewish contingent showing up for the annual karaoke.

And if you’ve indulged too much already? Head over to the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, where the first-class Fitness Center is open on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day until mid-afternoon ($24 for a non-member day pass, $12 if you go with a member). While others suffer the aftereffects of moo shu and eggnog, you can be sweating them off on the cardio machines, lounging in the hot tub — or idling in the spa, dreaming of sugarplums. 

Comic Judy Gold, headlines this year’s “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show.

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