During a year where many holiday traditions have had to be altered or even canceled altogether, one seasonal pleasure that feels all the more special for remaining mostly unchanged is a walk down through downtown Golden.
While it’s true the blocks might be a little quieter than in the past and a face mask is a must this time around, the streets still possess that familiar seasonal shine thanks to the thousands of twinkling lights, Santa and his reindeer above the welcome arch and the windows filled with snowmen, elves and other colorful Christmas characters.
The latter became a tradition three years ago — although they might feel like they’ve been around much longer — when Natalie Smith moved to the Denver area from Utah and brought her family’s window painting tradition with her.
“My mom actually taught me how to window paint when I was in high school and it was something her grandma had taught her,” she said. “My grandma would go out window painting all over Las Vegas and taught her and then she taught me.”
For Smith, one of the aspects of window painting that makes it special is that it is intended to be less permanent than other kinds of art. As a result, windows can be changed to match the seasons and holidays making it perfect for shop owners looking to add some holiday flair to their holiday windows around Christmas.
Smith has become a fixture around downtown Golden during the holiday season over the past three years and this year and this year has painted window displays at Golden Goods, D’Deli, Red Wagon Gift and Garden Shop and Gold Mine Cupcakes.
She also recently finished a larger window painting on the panes that make up the garage door of the Golden Rock Shop. That one, which depicts two large wings, is intended to be a personal piece that will be a destination for strollers looking for an Instagram-worthy selfie. But it is the holiday pieces that business owners seem to want the most, she said.
Smith said she first realized the power of her holiday windows when an old customer in Utah said her windows made him feel like he did when “he was a kid and he knew Santa was going to come down the chimney and I believe in the Christmas spirit.”
“As we were talking about it, I got chills and realized that was part of my window painting motto,” she said. “I’m playing the role of Mrs. Clause and coming to town and putting Christmas gifts on people’s windows and bringing Christmas spirit to all who believe.”
This year, Smith also added some western flair to the windows at Golden Goods, where this year’s Santa is painted wearing a cowboy hat and boots and riding a hobby horse.
It was the sense of history and tradition, which Smith said evokes a feel of a classic Christmas, that first drew her to paint in towns with historic main streets upon moving to Colorado. In Golden, she was particularly drawn to the town’s history, which could be experienced through visiting institutions like the Old Capitol Grill.
“That was something that drew me to Golden is I saw there was hidden relics from over 100 years ago,” she said. “It’s kind of similar with window painting. It’s a dying art but I am carrying on that legacy.”