The shortest day: This year's Winter Solstice Concert '94: A World Family Celebration offers culturally diverse, nondenominational holiday fun for all ages--all in the spirit of new beginnings suggested by the solstice. Setting the mood is Denver's own spellbinding African-American storyteller, Opalanga Pugh, who utilizes the oral traditions of her own culture to explore the seasonal traditions of others; joining Pugh are gospel/ blues singer Ernestine Mathis, multicultural music ensemble Fuzik and the Southern Plains Indian Dancers. Tickets, available in advance at King Soopers stores, are $10 for adults ($12 at the door); children sixteen and under will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Proceeds from the concert, taking place at the Houston Fine Arts Center, 7111 Montview Blvd., and beginning at 7:15 p.m., will benefit the Crossover Project, an arts program for at-risk kids; for details call 839-8950.
Thursday December 22 Getting religion: Religious images came to Latin America via settlers from Europe, but the artisans of the New World--trained and folk artists alike--soon embraced the saints, angels and madonnas of European tradition, developing their own unique style and art form. Expresiones de Fe, a holiday-related exhibit in progress at the Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Dr., explores this devotional art of Christian Latin America with carved nativity scenes, statues and saintly paintings. Museum admission is $2 ($1 student/senior, kids under twelve free); the show continues through January 14. Call 607-9761.
Cheap trills: Yes, baby--it's cold outside. But you can unwrap and stop shivering--at least for a while. The Denver Botanic Gardens concludes its seasonal concert series appropriately tonight with a steamy tropical breeze of a show by the Pan Jumbies, a local steel-drum band that blends calypso rhythms and jazzy improvisations--easily conjuring that Caribbean vacation you can't afford this winter. The 7 p.m. concert will be held in balmy Mitchell Hall at the Gardens, 1005 York St. This cruise should be a little easier on the pocket--tickets are $11 ($9 members), available by calling 370-8187.
Friday December 23 Come and glow: It may be that those depressed by seasonal affective disorder had something to do with the instigation of the candle-lighting traditions and bonfire dances of various winter holidays--how else does one combat the creeping darkness? Or maybe it's just an expression of latent mass pyromania. Season of Light, a special program at CU-Boulder's Fiske Planetarium, will shed some, er, light on the subject by exploring burning seasonal issues--explaining the truth behind, among other things, the Hanukkah legend and the Christmas star. Tonight is your last chance to view Fiske's informative departure from typical planetarium shows; showtime is 7:30. Call 492-5001 for additional information.
Saturday December 24 You sleigh me: Whether you choose to stay home or bundle up for the elements, there are a number of ways to make the night before special. Romantics without big family obligations can stay in town but still have a getaway. The well-appointed Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St., offers rooms with a Victorian ambience this week for the Victorian price of $18.91 a night, based on double occupancy, through Monday. You and your honey can relax with an afternoon sherry in the lobby, then spring for a Christmas massage or room service; suburbanites who never get downtown can explore galleries, brewpubs and downtown shopping. Space is limited; for reservations call 628-5400. Holiday skiers will find Yule activities galore just about anyplace they choose to indulge their sport--Winter Park slopes will glow during a torchlight parade on Lower Hughes Trail, followed by fireworks (892-0961); in Crested Butte, festivities include Christmas Eve Sleigh Ride Dinners at the Paradise Warming House and, for the kids, slope appearances by Bubba Bear (1-800-544-8448); Beaver Creek Resort features its annual Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child--a stroll through a wonderland of a Dickensian village, with Santa's Toyland, a nativity scene, a gingerbread house and more (296-8245); and at Eldora Mountain Resort, Santa and his sidekick Eldorable Bear will hand out candy canes to wee schussers (440-8700); the Jolly One will also appear at SilverCreek (629-1020). Here in town, an ecumenical candle-lighting service at the First Divine Science Church, 1400 Williams St., will provide a few moments to reflect--accordionist Robert Davine, singers Linda Maich and Eli Owens and autoharpist Michael Stanwood provide the music. The service begins at 7:30; call 322-7738. More traditional fare will ring through St. Augustine's Orthodox Church, 55 W. 3rd Ave., where the Abbey Singers, Gregorian Chant Schola Cantorum and St. Augustine Chamber Players will perform before, during and after the midnight service--works include a new Christmas cantata by Gerald Near, Schubert's Mass in G Major, and Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Music begins at 11:30; call 698-2433. And finally, you stay-at-homes who love the holidays but have little use for religion can gather round the radio for an old-fashioned '40s-style Christmas Eve--tune in to KHOW-AM/630 at 10 for Christmas Eve at Chicago Creek, a two-hour program that includes a rare recording of Dylan Thomas reading A Child's Christmas in Wales and Basil Rathbone at the helm of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, as well as a bit of Christmasy mood music. Just the thing to usher old St. Nick in the direction of your chimney.