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A Christmas scene, circa 1900.
BY ROSEMARY FETTER
For most people, Christmas is a joyful time. Families gather around a tree (be it evergreen, spruce or plastic) for good food, gift giving, songs and all-around good cheer.
Centered on childhood, religion and good old-fashioned commercialism, our Christmas is all about giving, loving and pleasing others, as it should be. But the holiday has darker origins that predate our modern notions of peace on earth and goodwill to men.
The winter solstice celebration dates to earliest recorded time when sacrifice and burning of the yule log ensured the return of the sun. Druids wore holly sprigs in their hair during rituals since the pointy leaves supposedly afforded protection against evil spirits.
For the Romans, the pagan festival evolved into the feast of Saturnalia, which honored Saturn, the Roman god of seeds and planting. From Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, master and slave changed places, engaging in boisterous revelry, overindulgence in food and drink, enthusiastic mating behavior, property destruction and general insanity.
The Christians chose to observe Christ’s birth on Dec. 25, hoping to pre-empt the holiday and change its meaning. Even so, during the first few centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the 12 days of Christmas (Dec. 25-Jan. 5) looked more like Halloween. The superstitious, which included almost everyone, believed that forces of evil roamed the earth during this time and were intent on counterbalancing with the benevolent appearance of the savior.
Long periods of darkness played havoc on our imaginative ancestors who saw witches and malevolent spirits in the twilight shadows and flickering firelight. Nervous occupants painted the sign of the cross on doorways, burned logs in the fireplace all night and avoided venturing into the darkness for fear (not always unjustified) they might never return.
The Germans were among the first to put a more positive spin on Christmas, planting fir saplings and decorating trees with apples, roses and paper in honor of St. Boniface, who had converted them to Christianity. During the 4th century, legends arose around a Turkish bishop, later known as St. Nicholas, who brought gifts to children on his feast day, Dec. 6. The kindly bishop would have been amazed to discover that in some countries he was accompanied by a black devil figure called Krampas or Black Rupert with horns and a long tongue. His job was to deliver birch rods and ashes to naughty boys and girls.
Some truly frightening postcards printed in Germany around 1910 pictured Krampas carrying away misbehaving children to some unhappy fate. In the 1890s, a popular depiction of the German Christmasman or Weihnachtsmann, a Protestant incarnation of St. Nicholas, carried a tree in one hand and a switch in the other.
In this pre-World War II Christmas postcard, a more benevolent Santa hands out toys, rather than spankings. However, naughty and nice is still with us.
German Protestants also came up with a more kindly image of the Christchild or Kriskindl as a benevolent gift giver. By the time Kris made it to America, he became Kris Kringle, by then just another name for Santa Claus.
The Puritans who settled early America shunned Christmas, which they considered pagan nonsense. From 1659 to 1691, its observance was banned in Boston.
In the early 19th century, Christmas in New York looked more like Saturnalia, with drunken roughnecks carousing in the streets, making as much noise and causing as much trouble as possible. In 1828, the New York City Council formed the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot.
And then miraculously, the holiday got a makeover. In 1822, Dr. Clement Clark Moore, a classical scholar, penned The Night Before Christmas (or A Visit from St. Nicholas) to entertain his children. A friend mailed a copy to a newspaper, and before long the poem became famous. Along with the angels, the merchants rejoiced as the toy industry boomed.
Moore may have based his poem on Washington Irving’s 1809 chronicle Knickerbocker’s History of New York, in which he describes the saint flying over the rooftops and dropping presents down chimneys. He may have also drawn inspiration from a small lithographed book called The Children’s Friend written in 1821. On the cover, an anonymous New York author depicted “old Santeclaus” wearing a fur top hat and riding in a sled filled with presents labeled “rewards.” Interestingly, his sleigh was driven by a single reindeer.
Moore’s poem described Santa as an elf with a white beard who dressed in furs, smoked a pipe and drove a tiny sleigh guided by eight reindeer with colorful names like Donder (later Donner) and Blitzen. Over the next few decades, artists depicted Santa’s appearance in various ways—from a deranged-looking dwarf to a fur-covered gnome wearing yellow tights.
St. Nicholas and Black Peter. The Dutch Black Peter was less than the goat-like Krampas.
The definitive image came from cartoonist Thomas Nash, who began drawing illustrations of Santa delivering gifts to the troops during the Civil War. Santa gained weight over the next few decades until he looked like a prosperous 19th century businessman in a red suit. That particular version stays with us, despite a modern aversion to the overweight.
Although Queen Victoria and Prince Albert may have fostered the concept of Christmas as a family affair, Americans took it to the next level. A woodcut of the British royal family gathered around a Christmas tree, published in The Illustrated London News December 1848, was reproduced in the popular Godey’s Ladies Magazine two years later, minus the queen’s crown and the prince’s mustache. The Americanized version became the first widespread image of a decorated Christmas tree in the United States.
Along with Godey’s, other publications provided helpful suggestions for decorations, parties and even homemade gifts around the holiday season. By the early 1900s, all the recognizable Christmas symbols were in place, minus grandiose lighting displays, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the latter created by Montgomery Ward in 1939.
Obviously, Christmas has come a long way since those early pagan festivals. Although people often complain that the true meaning of the holiday has been lost, the reverse is true. Our modern celebration may have flaws, but it beats the more somber Christmas of our forbearers.
Photos courtesy of Taste of Home
Preheat oven to 425°. In a skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium heat until sausage is no longer pink; drain. Transfer to a greased 3-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the red peppers and all the spinach.
In a bowl, combine flour, Parmesan cheese, basil and salt. Combine eggs and milk; add to dry ingredients and mix well. Pour over spinach.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Sprinkle with provolone cheese and remaining red peppers. Bake 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Garnish with rosemary if desired. Yield: 10-12 servings.
Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, saute the peppers, onion, garlic and seasonings in oil until vegetables are tender.
Add the shrimp; cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer or until heated through. Drain linguine; toss with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 8 servings.
In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, milk and extracts. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Divide dough into four portions. Shape each into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate, covered, overnight or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with floured 3-in. holiday cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough cream to reach a spreading consistency. If desired, beat in food coloring. Frost and decorate cookies as desired. Yield: about 10 dozen.
Freeze option: Freeze undecorated cookies in freezer containers. To use, thaw in covered containers and decorate as desired.
As holidays end and Christmas trees drop their needles, recycle your tree and help beautify the community by upcycling your Christmas tree into useful mulch.
South Suburban Parks and Recreation and the City of Littleton will offer free tree recycling at two locations, Dec. 26 through Jan. 16. Locations include Willow Spring Service Center, 7100 S. Holly St. in Centennial and Cornerstone Park, 5150 S. Windermere St. (corner of West Belleview Avenue and South Windermere Street).
Residents within the South Suburban district can drop off their tree seven days a week, sunrise to sunset, in Cornerstone’s parking lot, adjacent to the soccer fields, or at Willow Spring in the designated enclosure by the front gate.
All decorations need to be removed, including lights, ornaments, garland, tinsel and stands. If the tree is wrapped in a plastic bag, it must be removed. Flocked or artificial trees and yard refuse will not be accepted.
Most trash and waste removal companies do not accept Christmas trees, so district residents are encouraged to take advantage of this free program.
The trees will be mulched and used in landscaping throughout the district and Littleton.
Residents can obtain free mulch beginning Dec. 30. The mulch will be available weekdays, 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Willow Spring and from the City of Littleton throughout the year at the northwest corner of South Prescott Street. and West Prentice Avenue. Residents are responsible for loading and are encouraged to bring bags or trash cans and a shovel or pitchfork.
Call South Suburban at 303-721-8478 or the City of Littleton at 303-795-3863 for more information.
Guy Bellville. File photo
After 26 years as chief financial officer of the Cherry Creek School District, Guy Bellville has announced that he will retire in June of next year.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work for the one of the finest public education school districts in the nation,” Bellville said. “And, while I am looking forward to what’s next, I will miss working with the people I have to come think of as my second family.”
Bellville joined Cherry Creek Schools in 1991 during the administration of former Superintendent Bob Tschirki. He has since served three more superintendents: Monte Moses; Mary Chesley and current Superintendent Harry Bull. Before coming to Cherry Creek he worked as controller and chief financial officer for the Anchorage (Alaska) School District for 16 years.
Under his leadership, the Fiscal Services department earned annual awards, including the Government Finance Officers Distinguished Budget Presentation Certificate of Achievement for more than 20 years and the Association of School Business Officers Meritorious Budget Certificate of Excellence annually since 1997.
The Cherry Creek School District also has been honored by the Association of School Business Officials International as one of only 23 school districts nationwide to receive the Meritorious Budget Certificate of Excellence for at least 15 consecutive years. The award recognizes school entities that demonstrate excellence and transparency in school budget presentation.
“It has been said many times that Guy is one of only a handful of people in Colorado who fully understands Colorado’s Public School Finance Act,” Bull said. “It’s not unusual for policy makers to call and ask for his expertise.”
The Cherry School District’s Board of Education praised Bellville and wishes him well.
“Guy’s devotion to excellence and his clear understanding of the state’s complex system for funding public schools has made it possible for the board to make informed decisions about how to provide the resources needed to ensure that students have the best possible opportunities to succeed,” Cherry Creek School Board President Randy Perlis said. “We are very grateful for his long years of service and he will be greatly missed.”
David Hart a current director at PFM Financial Advisors LLC, has been selected to serve as the next chief financial officer for the district. Hart also has served as the CFO for Denver Public Schools and the Douglas County School District as well as manager of revenue and treasurer for the City and County of Denver.
“No one can replace Guy, but David’s experience and knowledge of public school finance make him the perfect fit for the Cherry Creek School District going forward,” Bull said. “We feel very fortunate that he will be joining us.”
Hart said he is ecstatic about coming to Cherry Creek Schools.
“It’s a very unique opportunity to follow someone with Guy’s reputation and tenure,” Hart said. “The Cherry Creek School district is highly regarded and is understood to be among the state’s leading education institutions.”
Hart will start at CCSD on February 1, 2017 to begin the transition before Bellville’s departure.
TriCity Academy, the planned Englewood charter school approved this year, has received a $196,500 start-up grant from the Colorado Department of Education.
The public school slated to open in the fall of 2017 is one of 50 charter applicants to make the grant-recipient list last month. The money can be used for a wide range of startup expenses, including equipment, personnel and marketing. So far, the school has relied on benefactors.
“This is a big deal and a big help,” said Rick Gillit, the Englewood City Council member who chairs TriCity’s board of directors. “We were among the few to receive the grant, so we’re excited.”
The grant comes as TriCity enters a new phase after years of unsuccessful efforts to bring a charter school to Englewood. This month, TriCity is expected to finalize purchase of a school building and sign its final contract with the Charter School Institute, a nonprofit organization that has authorized the school’s founding.
The precise location of the building, reportedly located near the intersection of Hampden Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, will not be released, at the seller’s request, until TriCity signs its final contract with CSI and the sale is finalized. Meanwhile, the board has hired a principal and has accepted letters of intent from families.
“We actually had a pretty good meeting at the library the other night. We had more sign-ups,” Gillit said. “We’re going to meet the 100-student requirement without any problem.”
New Principal Alan McQueen is heartened to see what he sees as the community rallying around TriCity’s alternative choice in local public education.
“We’re excited to be able to serve the kids and families in the Englewood and Sheridan area,” he said. “We’ve been working with CSI. They’ve been extremely supportive.”
The school expects to begin formal enrollments in March.
An open house at the new building will be scheduled in January.
After nearly three years of rejected applications, appeals and transmutations, the application for a semi-autonomous public school in Englewood was approved unanimously in June by CSI, Colorado’s only non-district authorizer of such schools, after applicants were repeatedly rejected by the Englewood Schools Board of Education.
Plans are for TriCity to first open as a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school serving primarily the three cities of Englewood, Littleton and Sheridan. The school plans to add an additional level each year through the eighth grade.
TriCity plans to focus on the Core Knowledge curriculum used by about 40 percent of charter schools in Colorado. The reform-centered program is built on principles of building cultural literacy and knowledge through sequenced grade-by-grade common learning.
Because CSI, not Englewood Schools, approved the application, TriCity will not be part of the school district and will instead answer directly to CSI, which will act as a sort of virtual school district. Even so, the school is expected to have a financial impact on Englewood Schools, which will lose $6,800 in state and local revenue for every student that leaves to attend TriCity.
After a long standoff, TriCity and Englewood reached a settlement agreement a year ago in which the school board temporarily set aside its chartering authority while TriCity took its case to CSI. In exchange, TriCity rescinded its second appeal to the state Board of Education, a body that had shown some support for the application and would have been empowered to permanently eliminate the local school district’s chartering authority.
Although the state board had ordered Englewood to sort out its differences with TriCity and find a way to integrate the proposed school into the district, the fight was one of the region’s longest and most contentious battles over a charter school.
“We’re in a wonderful place now,” Gillit said of the school’s long and contentious history. “The probability is that everything is going to be fine.”
On Sunday, Dec. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m., shoppers are invited to bring their furry, feathery or fuzzy friend for a special “Pet Night with Santa” photo opportunity at the Outlets at Castle Rock. Guests are asked to be sure pets are on leashes or appropriate harnesses. All friendly and safe pets are welcome. For additional details, please visit outletsatcastlerock.com/events
Celebrated each year on December 26 in Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations, Boxing Day may sound like a day to clear a home of the boxes that accumulate during Christmas gifting celebrations. Some people may think it’s a time to head to the gym and work off some of those extra holiday pounds by landing a few hits on the punching bag.
Despite its name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with heavyweight fighters or post-holiday cleanup. In fact, the holiday’s origins can be traced to Great Britain and the practice of bestowing gifts on the lower classes, primarily house servants and the working class.
Centuries ago, among family members and friends of equal station, Christmas gifts were exchanged on or before Christmas Day. Presents for the working class were bestowed the day after. A gift from one’s employer was called a “Christmas box.” The Oxford University Press defines a Christmas box as a present or gratuity given at Christmas. In Great Britain, it was usually confined to gratuities given to those who were employees or paid by the grantor of the gift or a customer.
Although the holiday was once based around gifting, today it is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday in the United States. Banks and non-retail businesses are closed on Boxing Day, but shoppers flock to stores to use gift cards or other funds to purchase or return gifts. Sales are prevalent, and the day presents yet another opportunity for retailers to maximize year-end profits.
In the world of sports, Boxing Day is an opportunity for fans to see their favorite teams play. In the United Kingdom, football and rugby leagues host a full schedule of matches on Boxing Day. In Australia, cricket matches are held. Boxing Day also marks the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Boxing Day also may be an opportunity for wild game hunts across the UK.
Boxing Day is a day for residents of Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and Canada to celebrate and take advantage of great deals offered by retailers.
Donald Bechter, CEO of Denver-based RMB West, LLC, has been named chairman of the board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado for 2017, replacing outgoing chairman Tom Hurley, senior vice president of Market Research and Strategic Development at Jackson National Life Distributors.
The change in the Colorado Chapter’s chairman was one of several personnel announcements at the Chapter’s November board meeting. Hurley, who served on the board for seven years, including the last two as chairman, is rotating off the board along with six other directors:
• Donald Oberndorf, president of Oberndorf Properties, Ltd., who served for six years
• Bernard (Bernie) Poskus of Poskus Caton & Klein, P.C., who served six-year terms on two separate occasions
• Daniel Thomas, a retired corporate finance executive who teaches business at University of Colorado and Colorado State University, who served for six years
• Francis Brown, wealth specialist at Key Private Bank, who served for four years
• Sidney (Sid) Okes, Jr., retired construction executive and engineer, who served three years
• Kristy Tochihara, director and senior portfolio manager at Trailhead Wealth Management, LLC, who served three years
Joining the board are two new members:
• Dr. Lotta Granholm-Bentley, executive director at the Knoebel Institute for Health Aging at University of Denver
• Doug Mantelli, senior vice president for national sales development at Jackson National Life Distributors
“It is always a challenge for a board like ours to lose so many knowledgeable and committed members, but it also offers an opportunity for other directors to take a leadership role,” said Linda Mitchell, president and CEO of the Colorado Chapter. “Tom Hurley provided two years of leadership as chairman during a key point in the chapter’s history, for which we are particularly grateful, but each of these individuals has shown a strong dedication and commitment to the Alzheimer’s Association, and all will be missed.”
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