Grate expectations: Face the facts--holidays are at least 80 percent about stuffing your face, and the more the merrier. Hanukkah frolickers can get their fill of potato pancakes at today's Munchin' Lots of Latkes Luncheon, a tribute to those crunchy, munchy, grated and fried traditional spud treats, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia St. Musician Cowboy Hirsch and storyteller Cherie Karo Schwartz provide the family-friendly entertainment; admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children. How about them potatoes? Reservations are recommended; call 399-2660.
Turn the tables: While the rest of us break bread and snarf latkes together, the region's homeless and needy denizens will follow suit, when volunteer servers dish out hot holiday meals at the annual Salvation Army Christmas Dinner at noon today at Currigan Hall, 1324 Champa St., and the Volunteers of America Christmas Day Meals, also at noon at the VOA Mission, 2877 Lawrence St., and Sunset Park Senior Center, 1865 Larimer St. What we might tend to forget in the midst of spreading thick our holiday goodwill is that these agencies are in need of donations and volunteers all year long. For more information on how to help, call the VOA at 297-0408 (or log on at www.voacolorado.org), or call the Salvation Army at 861-4833.
Culture clatch: In the wake of Christmas Day, African-Americans gather together to celebrate their roots, spirit and culture during the seven-day observance of Kwanzaa, a holiday that recognizes positive human principles. You don't have to be African-American to enjoy the First Night of Kwanzaa Celebration, which honors the first of those principles, Umoja (or unity), tonight at From Slaveship to Ownership, 620 E. 17th Ave. The Oyoyo Drum Troupe from Nigeria will drum in the revelry beginning at 7; participants are asked to donate one canned-food item for charity and a packaged snack to share at the party. Call 860-0865 for details.
Meanwhile, Boxing Day, a British day-after celebration on which gifts collected in boxes at church are distributed to the poor, gets a nod tonight from the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St. Area Celtic-music ensemble Colcannon fuels the festivities with toe-tapping tunes beginning at 8; for information and tickets, $8, call 294-9281.
Consider the alternative: Denver's alternative-gallery scene appears to be alive and well--downright healthy, actually--after nearly twenty years of toiling and plugging away. Here's the proof: Pirate, a Contemporary Art Oasis, at 3659 Navajo St.--which has spun in the eye of the storm of cooperative art venues longer than any of the others--touts its own longevity tonight from 7 to 10 at the opening of its 18th Anniversary Group Show, and the applause is well-deserved. Buccaneer David Zimmer also exhibits his odd found-object concoctions in one of Pirate's associate crannies; both shows continue through January 11. Call 458-6058.
Read my beak: Whodunit? The resilient Chicken Lips Comedy Theater is back to answer that eternal question with another holiday-season revival of Murder Most Fowl, the interactive murder-mystery comedy that may well have preceded all imitators. Featuring much of the original cast and reprising such delightfully type-cast roles as producer Dexter Coop, prima donna Holly Pharme, stage manager Max Nugget and jealous understudy Hammond Deggs, the play can be seen at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays during an open-ended run at the Avenue Theater, 2119 E. 17th Ave. A night at the theater beats a game of Clue on the card table any night of the year, so call 321-5925 for reservations; admission is $15.
Gay '90s: Ellen DeGeneres abandoned the closet, and Andrew Cunanan shocked chi-chi South Beach; protease inhibitors gave new hope to AIDS researchers, and the gay community lost Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and activist Tom Stoddard. These are just a few of the bases touched upon during In the Life's Year-in-Review, an hour-long summation of the year's events in gay life. The informative hour is packed full of news bites, tributes, commentary, culture and questions; for a full '97 recap, tune in to KBDI-TV/Channel 12 tonight at 10.
Puckish charm: The wrapping's in the trash, Rex ate the remaining scraps off the turkey carcass last night, and Granny and Gramps went home. Now what? Don't be caught 'twixt and between festivals--how about a hockey game? The Colorado Avalanche obliges sports fans tonight at McNichols Arena when they face off against the Montreal Canadiens at 7. Though tickets for the 'lanche are always a hot seat, why not give it a try? Call 830-TIXS and pray.
Subway pop: The triple-voiced threat of Chicago roots-and-rock band Sonia Dada got its start in the subway--it just took the keen ear of guitarist/ songsmith Dan Pritzker, who first heard a cappella trio Michael Scott, Sam Hogan and big Paris Delane doo-wopping "Jesus on the Mainline" down under, to figure out how to bring the sound to street level. They form the euphonious bedrock of Sonia's unique melange, mixing gospel with psychedelia in a free-wheeling soup perfect for year's end. Following a December 27 show at Denver's Ogden Theatre, the group performs--with openers Lowen & Navarro--tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 9 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder; admission ranges from $22.50 for tonight's trial run to $30.50 for tomorrow's New Year's Eve bash. Call 443-3399 or 830-TIXS.
Ring in the new: What if they decided to throw New Year's Eve and nobody came? Fat chance. Whether your approach to the last day of the year is introspective, devil-may-care or unequivocally nihilistic, you know you're gonna be there celebrating.
Get an early start on the dawning annum --before dawn, in fact--at the annual Planetary Meditation, a guided meditation conducted in conjunction with similar gatherings around the world, this morning (yawn) at 5 a.m. at First Divine Science Church, 1400 Williams St. A light potluck continental breakfast follows the service; for details call 322-7738.
Next stop is for those sleepy tots who get crabby after 9 p.m. Noon Year's Eve is a positively pint-sized party thrown every year at the Children's Museum of Denver, I-25 and 23rd Ave. The kids get to make resolutions, count down to noon, drop the ball and imbibe some bubbly...soda pop just like the big folks, only they do it at noon instead of long after dark. Admission is $2 to $5; call 433-7444. Also packing it in before 9 is the Collage Children's Museum's New Year's Eve Family Sock Hop, a Boulder-area shindig for kids and their parents taking place from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Space for Dance, 2696 30th St. Admission is $3 to $4 each (a $10 to $14 family fare offers a price break for the whole clan); call 440-0053 for reservations.
The biggest family féte of the evening--a multicultural, multi-arts extravaganza of nothing but good clean fun--takes place during First Night Colorado, today from 3 p.m. to midnight at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St. Classic rockers Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas, provide a focal point for tonight's festivities in the convention center ballroom, but they'll be competing with a myriad of local talent and downtown's most diversified slate of musicians, dance troupes, theater groups, jugglers and storytellers, all of whom will perform on eight stages throughout the afternoon and evening. Admission is $6 to $12 (children under three get in free); call 517-9898.
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For the glamour set, there's no celebration glitzier than the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's A Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, beginning at 7:30 in Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Put on your sequins and cummerbunds for one of the classiest jazz lineups of this year (and possibly the next), when an all-star combo--including saxophonist James Moody, trumpet player Jon Faddis, trombonist Slide Hampton, pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Billy Drummond and bassist John Lee--congregates on stage with the CSO to honor Diz's bebop legacy on tunes such as Night in Tunisia, Manteca and Lorraine. Tickets to the concert range from $20 to $45; for an additional $65 per person, make a fancier night of it at a post-concert dinner/dance and midnight fireworks display. Call 830-TIXS for concert tickets; to reserve dinner tickets or concert/dinner packages, call 98-MUSIC.
And for those who prefer to celebrate in an unstuffed shirt, the Colorado Ballet bounces off the wall with The Nutcracker Goes Nuts, a just-once, just-for-fun blooper ballet (recommended for adults and kids over twelve) at 9:30 p.m. in the nearby Auditorium Theatre, also in the Plex. Admission fees, $45 to $65, include noisemakers, dessert and New Year's champagne. Isn't that just plummy? Call 830-TIXS.
Finally, New Year's Eve takes on a completely different color when bluegrass and new-grass mingle acoustically at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder. The Sam Bush Band, featuring John Cowan and special guests, pulls strings with wicked virtuosity on a variety of instruments beginning at 9; for tickets, $32.50, call 786-7030.
You can see for yourself, it's a toss-up--just don't get caught tonight with nothing to do. For complete listings of these and all the other New Year's haps, see this issue's New Year's Guide.