Cheap Cheer

So you forgot to tell the family you got laid off six months ago, and now the prospect of dropping several bills on Nutcracker box seats is making you shudder. Fear not, broke Gothamite! The Voice has lots of festive ideas for the frugal—many of them free (look out for the !


HOLIDAY PAY

illustration Gina Triplett

"We've come a long way in making Santaland a much more enjoyable atmosphere then it was back then," says Bob Rutan, director of Macy's Event Operations, of David Sedaris's sardonic "Santaland Diaries," a cautionary tale of Macy's elfhood circa 1991. Since the department store's spokespeople maintain that they employ "the one and only Santa," Rutan is only authorized to talk about the 140 elves hired every Christmas season at the Herald Square location. According to Rutan, not only should ideal elf candidates be filled with the Christmas spirit, they should be patient, maintain high energy levels, and, of course, like kids. "Elves come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and religions," explains Rutan. "We have six-four, 220-pound elves. We have Buddhist elves and Jewish elves." First-year elves earn $9.50 an hour to do everything from ringing up sales to helping shoppers to exits. Rutan estimates there'll be about a dozen openings at press time; stop by Macy's eighth-floor personnel department or call to apply. Macy's, 151 West 34th Street, 494-4766. (SPARTOS)

DEAR SANTA

After shelling out December's rent for that closet you call home and dropping 10 bucks a day for lunch, no wonder you turn to a free newspaper for cheap holiday revelry; but in the midst of all the indulgence, reserve an evening for kids in need. Donate toys to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation (718-252-3100). Or play Santa in the New York Cares Secret Santa Program by answering "Dear Santa" letters (228-5000, apply by December 6). If you have time to spare, become a Children's Aid Society Holiday Helper (orientation on December 10, 105 East 22nd Street, 949-4800). Wrap gifts, or better yet, chill at one of their holiday parties. It'll be dry, but there's bound be plenty of sugar to get you high-strung. (KIM)

OH, TANNENBAUM!

Is all the shoving and foot stomping below Rockefeller Center's lofty Christmas tree turning you from a Santa to an irascible Ebenezer? Relax. There are plenty of alternative evergreens on view that are just as impressive as they are different. Towering in the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West and 79th Street, 769-5100; $12 adults, $7 kids) is their annual Origami Holiday Tree. Starting November 26, 1000 intricately folded, richly colored paper decorations representing the museum's collection—including an arrangement of dinos—will graciously hang from its boughs. If you still have a hankering for paper ornaments, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Avenue, 316-7540; J) has a grand Peace Tree embellished with 1000 paper cranes (a symbol of world peace)—the lighting ceremony is on December 20 at 11 a.m. And what is Christmas tree gazing without a little outdoor briskness and a lot of holiday ditties? South Street Seaport's (Fulton and Water streets, 732-8257; J) festive boardwalk is illuminated with thousands of white lights emanating from their annual 50-foot "Singing" Chorus Tree. The all-men Big Apple Chorus make up some of the limbs on view this year, Friday through Sunday, from November 29 to January 1. Now all you need is some hot cider. (FRANKLIN)

PEACE ON EARTH

"In an effort to make ourselves heard over the constant drumbeat for a war without limits, while maintaining an appropriate level of style, decadence, and deathly seriousness, we at Apocalypse Wow! have created Rockstars Against the War, an exclusive, V.I.P.-level, invitation-only, super-elite band of the most fabulous, incredible, mind-blowing malcontents on the planet." So goes co-founder and "head instigator" Chairman Wow!'s refreshingly glamorous, patchouli-free pitch for peace on Earth, a true holiday sentiment if there ever was one. In addition to sending "lavish tour buses" down to the massive D.C. protests, the group(ies) organized "Funk the Election," an L.E.S. DJ party with "ample alcohol consumption and debauchery to please even the most apathetic." Apocalypse Wow! is planning another audacious action come December; go to www.apocalypsewow.org to get on their A-list. (SPARTOS)

'IT'S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE'

NBC must stand for "Not a Bad Christmas." Aside from the indomitable Miss Piggy and Mr. Kermie Kermit, their new Muppet movie features Whoopi Goldberg (of the movie Ghost!) and David Arquette (hot off Eight Legged Freaks!) as well as Joan Cusack! (Not a Bad Cast!) But that's not all . . . Need a Bazillion Credits goes even further because, so far, we don't have enough star action for the kiddies—and everyone knows children need celebrity-driven entertainment. Enter William H. Macy, Carson Daly, Kelly Ripa, Joe Rogan, Molly Shannon, and the cast of Scrubs for additional cameos. It's like a big ol' B-list gang bang. Plot: Kermit tries to save the Muppet Theatre from a banker-nightclub developer. NBC, November 29 at 8 p.m. (PERETTI)

FELIZ NAVIDAD

Nuyoricans, rejoice. It's Chreemas time again! Before roasting the pig, chilling the cervezas, and dusting off your José Feliciano records, you may want to check out a couple of Christmas Carol parodies to get you in the mood. Live Theatre Gang infuses Puerto Rican flava into Boriqua Scrooge (Sundays at 3 from December 1 to 29, New York Comedy Club, 241 East 24th Street, 946-1244; $8-$12), a musical retelling of the Dickens classic. There's bound to be plenty of salsa and spirited humbuggin' for the entire family. For another fix of Latin-laced yuletide fun, visit Carmen Mofongo's Coquito Christmas Carol (December 7, Surf Reality, 172 Allen Street, 673-4182; J). Bronx girl Michele Carlo (a/k/a Carmen Mofongo) takes you on a rum-induced trip through the past, present, and future with a colorful cast of Lower East Side hooligans, plus a special appearance from the man—not the one who's keeping you down—Papá Noel. Remember to lift your glass of Carmen's free homemade coquito—wepa! (BASTIDAS)

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