Thrills for the week

December 26
The gifts that go on being given: We all have to deal with these things we found under the tree--the inevitable twelve hand-knit sweaters, eleven Dr. Seuss ties, ten Tickle Me Elmos, nine pairs of earmuffs, etc. The funny thing is, someone out there might love to have some of that stuff. So here's what to do: Pack it up, throw in a few useful household items, gently used clothes or non-perishable foods, and drop everything off at the Southglenn Mall's Center Court, where The Late Christmas, a day-after donation event bene-fiting the Salvation Army's Lambuth Transitional Center for families, gets under way beginning at 10 a.m. Southglenn is located at University Blvd. and Arapahoe Rd. in Littleton; for information call 795-0856.

Jingle-bell jazz: You've got to give the Denver Botanic Gardens some credit--the central-Denver pastoral paradise just doesn't let frost and bad weather get in its way. In place of summer's luscious beds of daffodils and roses, the DBG strings up a dazzling outdoor display called Blossoms of Light, fills its indoor lobby with a blinding stand of poinsettias and puts on a bloomin' music series--in the dead of winter. The holiday series finishes up tonight at 7 with a sweet jazz evening featuring the impeccable Paul Warburton Quartet; for tickets, $13, call 370-8187.

Day and Knights: In real life, he's DeWayne Jessie. But to the world at large, he's "Otis, my man!"--the legendary Otis Day, best remembered for making us want to "Shout!" in the 1978 movie Animal House. And to the constant delight of more current collegiate generations still having resplendent Animal dreams, he continues his divine ruse to this day. Day and his band--that Beavis and Butt-head dream come true known as the Knights--bring their get-down party repertoire to the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, tonight at 9; we just dare you to show up in a toga. Tickets are $10.50; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.

December 27
Music to your ears: The Australian film Shine, which opened Christmas Day at the Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing St., aims at being both a music-lover's paean to inborn, passion-driven instrumental skill and a heartbreaking portrayal of the fragile side of genius. But whatever your taste in movies, most viewers agree that the inspirational heart of the movie, based on the life of concert pianist David Helfgott, is music itself. As a holiday treat, Denver keyboard virtuoso Francisco Aybar will warm up 8 p.m. Shine audiences at the Esquire with live performances at 7:40, nightly through Sunday. Aybar's mini-concerts are free with regular admission; call 733-5757 for details.

December 28
Born free: Well, not exactly. The denizens of the Denver Zoo are usually found safely wandering the confines of their habitats. But almost anyone--being a Colorado resident is the only stipulation--making a visit to the popular menagerie today from 10 to 4 can do so without paying a penny. Now, if you can just stay out of the gift shops and snack bars! The zoo, located in Denver's City Park, is open daily year-round; for information call 331-4100. And in case you were wondering--the holiday Wildlights display, open from 6 to 9 p.m., requires a separate admission.

December 29
Reach for the sky: Since everyone except the tone-deaf seems to like it, a little music can go a long way toward bridging cultural gaps. To that end, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra takes a musical, multicultural trip around the world this afternoon, during Hands Across the Sea, a showcase of classical works with global appeal. From John Philip Sousa's Hands Across the Sea March to Wagner's bombastic The Ride of the Valkyries, each selection is guaranteed to keep even the most easily distracted, fidgety audience members bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to the bitter end--which comes fairly quickly for the one-hour family concerts, scheduled at 2:30 and 4 p.m. at Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children; call 830-TIXS to reserve yours.

December 30
Tune up: It's too late for ho-ho-hos and mistletoe and too early for champagne and "Auld Lang Syne." So what's a poor party animal to do? If you're willing to forgo the party hats and bubbly in a plastic cup, you could get a head start on the New Year with help from Sonia Dada, the Chicago rock 'n' soul outfit that's become a Boulder favorite. The good-timey Sonias (or is that the Dadas?) test-drive their American music amalgam tonight at 9 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder; they return for the official party at the same time tomorrow. For tickets, $21 tonight or $28.35 on New Year's Eve, call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.

December 31
The good, the bad and the smutty: Another year is about to be sucked down the great universal drain into oblivion, so don't get caught in the vortex, good ladies and gents. New Year's Eve ought to be downright fun without the annoying stigmata of bad behavior and resolution lists waiting to be broken. Why not make your last night on earth--in 1996--a guiltless celebration this year? Tomorrow, after all, is another day.

Early risers can start the eve conscientiously, well before sunrise: First Divine Science Church's annual Global Meditation Service touts good wishes for worldwide unity while most hell-bent New Year celebrants are still catching some last-minute REMs. The service, timed to synchronize with similar events around the world, begins at 5 a.m.; bring a potluck contribution and stay afterward for breakfast. The church is at 1400 Williams St.; call 322-7738.

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