Did you catch the Jewish reference in “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”?

Hello from North Haven!

And a happy belated Thanksgiving! Penrose, Bill and I made our customary trip to central Maine to spend the holiday with my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, and my nephew, now a sturdy two-month-old.

We walked down to Parker Pond before dinner with my nephew bundled up and strapped to his father’s chest. Penrose stomped on every frozen puddle. Appetites whetted, we ate the traditional potatoes Anna and garlicky green beans, the chestnut soup and Parker House rolls, lobster for those who partake, and a slightly untraditional but incredibly delicious gluten free pumpkin coffee cake for dessert.

The next day, to stave off ennui and take advantage of being on the mainland, Bill and I took Penrose to the movies at Narrow Gauge Cinema in Farmington. (Four dollars per ticket for a matinee, and kids 3 and under are free – what could be better?) We hadn’t been to a proper movie theater with her since last February’s Moana viewing, both because there wasn’t anything that screamed “you must sit through this with your three-year-old in a public place” and we just hadn’t had unstructured mainland time in a while. But Pixar’s new film, Coco, beckoned.

Coco was a must-see for us for a few reasons: First, it covered familiar ground with its Dia de Muertos theme. One of Penrose’s favorite books is Ghosts, by Raina Telgemaier, which also talks about the Mexican traditions around family remembrance. Music, a huge part of our lives, is also integral to the film. The script is interspersed with Spanish colloquialisms, some of which were familiar to Penrose from her Abuela. And the main character bears an uncanny resemblance to her dad.

Totally riveted by popcorn and mariachi songs

I was much less enthusiastic about the “short” (not actually very short) before the feature: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. We’ve been able to avoid the beautiful princess genre, more or less, including Anna and Elsa. But there they were, enchanting my kid with their big eyes and lustrous braids.

My inner curmudgeon, jumpy every holiday season as Jewish holiday representation struggles to emerge under the Christmas deluge, was even further triggered as Olaf went dancing and singing around the fjords looking for Christmas traditions.

“What, no Jews in Arendelle?” I silently snarked.

BUT LO! Somewhere in the second or third verse, my curmudgeon had to eat her words. Olaf collected a dreidl and a menorah to add to the St. Lucia crown, gingerbread cookies, and hand-knitted mittens and scarves in his sleigh. Now, I don’t think that Chanukah should be lumped in with Christmas, but some representation is better than none! Ordinarily, I hate being proven wrong. But in this case, my annoyance at the whole Disney scene evaporated as soon as I felt like I might be a part of it after all. (I still thought it was way too long for a short, though!)

Much has been made of the significance of including Mexican culture in a mainstream film in this xenophobic time. And Coco – which was excellent, and had Penrose completely riveted as she munched popcorn and sipped hot chocolate – could work wonders for normalizing the country and its people. Just as I hope Olaf’s menorah and dreidl will do for my culture and my people, in the face of both the ubiquity of Christmas iconography, and the continuing emergence of anti-Semitic sentiment. It’s such a small thing, but one that shook me out of my gloom and showed me a glimmer of hope.

Courtney Naliboff

About Courtney Naliboff

In addition to this blog, I'm a contributing writer to kveller.com, a Jewish parenting site, a blogger and book reviewer for reformjudaism.org, and the author of Salt Water Cure, a column in Working Waterfront. I report news from North Haven for Working Waterfront and Island Journal, and was a speaker at the Maine Conference for Jewish Life in 2015. Follow Frozen Chosen on facebook or visit my Web site for more writing and free music to download!