Massachusetts – the Home of First Night

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(Photo Courtesy of First Night Boston)

Massachusetts boasts a lot of firsts in its illustrious history, and celebrating First Night each New Year’s Eve is one of them.

First Night Boston is officially the world’s first First Night. Launched on Boston Common on December 31, 1976, it featured costumed performers with fancy head-dresses, pet shows and square dancing, as well as a Senegalese 20-man dancing dragon, gospel singers and a musical opera based on the Grimm fairy tales. Organized by local arts advocate Clara Wainwright, along with the Mayor’s Office in Boston, the MBTA, and others, First Night was actually inspired by the Fourth of July celebrations that took place in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial.

Since then, the First Night model has spread to over 200 other cities and towns around the world, including several long-standing celebrations in Massachusetts. Here are First Night celebrations happening right now, along with a suggested highlight for each:

Beverly - Grand Procession Parade

Chatham –Sandcastles

Nantucket – Festival of Trees

New Bedford – Toe Jam Puppet Band

Northampton – Raising of the Ball

Rockport – Jazz, Celtic, Classical Music

Sandwich – Bio-Luminescence green-theme parade

Worcester – Multicultural Festival

Now in its 39th year, First Night Boston, continues the fine traditions of the original organizers, which was to connect Bostonians with “many of the traditional ways New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the cultures from which it originated,” while creating a “positive spirit in a broad-based, joyous, annual celebration.” You can purchase a button to help support the event and get into special performances.

This year’s First Night Boston schedule begins at 9:30 a.m. with a full day of cultural activities, artist displays, children’s parade and hundreds of workshops, performances, and special events. It ends with a fireworks display taking place in the skies over Boston Harbor at midnight.

First Night is a wonderful way for communities to come together, and it is also good for tourism, small business and for the creative economy in Massachusetts. Up to one million people are expected to attend Boston’s First Night, and thousands more at the other celebrations.

To find out more about visiting Massachusetts any time of year, go to MassVacation.com.