Your Guide to First Night Celebrations

My family has long been fans of First Night, the New Year’s Eve community celebrations that are held throughout the country and usually feature artists, musicians, and various events that reflect the culture of the area. First Night originated in Boston, where we lived for 14 years. Now, we usually attend the First Night in Alexandria, Virginia.

First Night festivals have expended to more than 45 cities in 19 states! Perhaps there’s one near you. And this list is not complete . . . try an Internet search to find all the First Night events near you.

There can be a magical carnival feeling about these end-of-year events. Traffic is blocked, the crowd is celebratory, and performances take over churches, galleries, theaters, and even spill over onto the street. Some First Nights features unique art displays and even ice sculptures—like the one below.

ice sculpture from Boston's First Night


What we’ve loved about First Night (and what you might love too)

  • There were daytime activities for the kids, like face painting, and clowns and even a children’s costumed march through town, which we enjoyed when our kids were younger.
  • We had our first experiences with such master storytellers as Jay O’Callahan and Odds Bodkin.
  • Our girls loved funny, crazy acts as well, including the Inflatable Theater of Fred Garbo.
  • Music, music, everywhere. By far, music groups are most common in the two cities where we’ve attended; everything from folky artists to gospel singers, from jazz to rock acts. The level of talent is often remarkable.
  • Of course, if you stay late, you could catch midnight fireworks to blast in the New Year. In Alexandria, as you can see from the video below, it’s over the Potomac River, and it’s spectacular.

[embedvideo id=”PV3YIbC2mGg?rel=0″ website=”youtube”]

The original First Night, held in Boston in 1975, was created as an alternative to the drunken party scene that so many New Year’s Eve events become. If there isn’t a First Night near you, maybe you, your kids, and some friends can organize your own special and creative celebration—with face-painting, stories, and sing-alongs!

But, however you ring in the New Year, we here at Learning Liftoff wish you and yours a healthy, happy 2016!

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