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First Night Boston is the country’s oldest and largest New Year’s Art festival that takes place on New Year’s Eve from the early afternoon until midnight. The event is organized by First Night, Inc. which is a private nonprofit dedicated to celebrating diversity and building the community through the arts. The First Night event showcases the works of over 1,000 artists in over 200 performances and exhibits at over 35 indoor and outdoor venues all across Boston’s downtown area.
The First Night artistic and cultural celebration on New Year’s Eve first took place on December 31st, 1976. It was founded by a small number of artists who wanted to create an alternative way to celebrating the New Year without the consumption of alcohol. Through the years, the festival grew in scope and in popularity with over a thousand artists participating in the 1990s and over a million people in attendance from across the region and country in the late 2000s.
First Night features all types of performances and events, musical, cultural, theater, artistic and much more. There are many events scheduled at some of Boston’s most renowned museums and cultural institutions such as a festival of international short films at the Museum of Fine Arts, free visits to places such as the Otis Museum and tours of the Old State House, Mother Church and the Institute of Contemporary Art. There are also many activities organized at the Boston Harbor and free Nutcracker performances with the Boston Ballet.
There are many events organized especially withkids in mind, such as the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association Workshop which features firecrackers and allows kids to make Chinese lanterns, dough art, and dragons. There are many places offering face painting and events where children can learn all about circus arts. There are also many events with puppet shows, magicians, and presentations by the New England Anime Society. Also, look out for the New England Conservatory Children’s Chorus and Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Those looking for a fun way to spend the evening before the clock chimes midnight for a new year, can choose from a wide variety of performances and activities, such as the Boston Poetry Slam, Improv Boston, many film screenings from the Roxbury Film Festival, Commonwealth Shakespeare: Bard over Broadway, performances from Opera Boston and the Boston Tap Company. Those who are more religious can attend the Boston Interfaith Clergy: Interfaith Midnight Peace Service.
There are also many outdoor events worth visiting such as the beautiful ice sculptures in various Boston venues such as the Boston Common and Copley Square. Check out the ice skating show spectacular at the Boston Common and various outdoor performances by local popular bands and artists such as the Chris North Dream Quartet and Main Fader. Finally, be sure not to miss the spectacular midnight fireworks display over the Boston Harbor to ring in the New Year at 11:59 pm.
All of the outdoor events of First Night Boston are open to the public and are free to attend. Indoor events require that attendees have a First Night Boston Button which costs $15 and $3 shipping when bought on the First Night website. The buttons are also available at many retailers across downtown Boston.