First Night in Boston for Beginners

It’s almost time for First Night festivities. If you, like me, grew up in an area where there’s no such thing, you might need a bit of a primer to understand what’s what. Thankfully, I’ve gone all out and put one of those together. Read onward…

What is First Night?

First Night is a citywide, arts-centric, community-oriented, family-friendly celebration of the New Year held nearly all day on New Year’s Eve. Think Dick Clark, that big dropping ball, and New York’s Times Square, except with more activities and starting much earlier. The various events scheduled also help provide an influx of needed monetary resources for local artists and their communities.

Who started First Night?

Boston, of course! Or, more specifically, a small group of artists in Boston.

When did Boston artists start First Night?

The first First Night celebration was held in 1976, the same year that Boston and the rest of the country celebrated the Bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of the United States’ declaration of independence from Great Britain.

Why did Boston artists start the First Night?

The artists who established the tradition of First Night did so in part to provide an alternative to typical New Year’s celebrations that were not so family-friendly. Notably, all events are sans alcoholic beverages.

What other places have First Night celebrations?

According to the global organization First Night International, some 101 cities in three separate countries hold annual First Night celebrations. That data includes the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as six additional First Night celebrations within the state of Massachusetts besides the one held in Boston.

How can I participate in First Night Boston?

It’s easy-peasy. Some events are open to the general public free of charge. For others, all you have to do is purchase a First Night Boston button for $15. This button can be attached to almost anything, and it will gain you access to any event scheduled during the festivities. Just visit the First Night Boston website to find out when and where the buttons are available and then pick up one or a few for friends and family, too. At the First Night Boston website, you can even peruse an artist profile of the individual who designs the button each year.

How do I know what events are scheduled for First Night in Boston?

First Night Boston features all sorts of happenings, from ice sculptures and fireworks displays to art exhibits and music performances, starting at 1pm EST on December 31, 2019. The information about events is compiled in one place for maximum simplicity. Download a PDF copy of the Program Guide from the First Night Boston website and then choose your preferred events. In addition, don’t forget to check the Program Guide Updates webpage for information about changes to the schedule.

Is there anything else to First Night Boston?

You bet. There’s also a First Month in Boston, namely January through June. Hold onto your First Night Boston button and you’ll receive all kinds of extra savings with it at participating locations throughout the relevant months in the New Year. It’s truly the button that keeps on giving. Find out more at the First Month Boston webpage.

Are you sure that’s all?

Well, not exactly. One of the nicer features of First Night Boston comes courtesy of the Massachusetts public transportation organization called the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), and it’s available to everyone, including people who don’t participate in First Night Boston. Starting at 8pm on December 31 and lasting until 2am on January 1st, all subway and bus service is completely, totally, and absolutely free of charge. The freebie rides will even include extra service on certain lines, so visit the MBTA website for all the details of this timely and much-appreciated courtesy.

First Night Boston sounds like a really worthwhile endeavor. Can I help out with the festivities, too?
Yes, you absolutely can, and the First Night Boston organization makes it nearly effortless to learn how by visiting the First Night Boston Volunteer webpage. There are usually a number or roles that need filling, such as ushers and setup crew members.

How about if I’m an artist who’d like to contribute? Can I do that also?
Again, the answer is yes. Keep up-to-date on when and how artists can begin applying for the next First Night Boston celebration by periodically visiting the First Night Boston Call to Artists webpage. Good luck!