Community holiday dinners showcase Colorado’s diversity
The first recorded Christmas dinner in Colorado wasn’t big on side dishes.
The menu for that feast — held at a camp north of Denver in 1858 and documented by a newspaper correspondent — contained 31 cuts of meat or fish and 13 kinds of alcohol but only a meager offering of rice, beans, boiled or baked potatoes and stewed pumpkin.
But what that meal started continues today as a tradition of come-one-and-all Christmas dinners across the state, a tradition that showcases the state’s diversity. In cities and towns, free Christmas Day dinners are held in city halls and county fairgrounds, restaurants and community centers.
In Cedaredge, in western Colorado, the annual Christmas dinner is held in a renovated fruit-packing shed. In Pueblo this year, the annual dinner — attended for decades by a man known as “One Shoe” — will be held in an arts center.
The menus, too, reflect the state’s cultural breadth.
In Del Norte, on the west side of the San Luis Valley, one of the volunteers this year will make a big pot of green chile to add to the feast. Lori Abrams said she started the dinner in Del Norte after seeing that many of her neighbors had no one to celebrate the holiday with. This year, she is hoping to serve 300 meals, all of them donated.
“I just tell people that anything you bring is something,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s a bowl of candy. It’s just the thought that you did something. … I just want people to know that there’s always somebody who is going to look out for them.”
And, sometimes, the meals reveal a community’s changes.
For more than 40 years, the Mathers family has hosted a community Christmas dinner at their bar in Craig. Past years, when Craig’s population boomed, the dinner drew more than 300 people. Now, with the region’s economy suffering and the city’s population shrinking, only about 100 people are expected.
But Mike Mathers said his family will keep hosting the dinner no matter what.
“Just because,” he said, “we’re a bar and you have some lost souls and they don’t have any place to go.”