First Night fireworks in Boston, photograph courtesy of First Night

If you have taken a cab ride around Boston recently, you may have become aware from the constantly streaming  in-taxi advertising that this city is the home of many “firsts”. Boston, AKA the Hub of the Universe, was home to the first public park (Boston Common), the first public high school (Boston Latin), first public library (Boston Public Library), the first Christmas card, the first subway (Tremont Street line), and so, so many more.

Ice Sculptures in Progress, photograph by Paul Marotta, courtesy of First Night

But did you know that Boston was also home to the first “First Night” celebration? The venerable New Year’s Eve festival was first celebrated in Boston in 1976, when a small group of local artists were inspired to create a festival that emphasized community spirit. It has grown and grown in the decades since, attracting a broad range of lively music, dance, theater, visual art, and film. Today, with the purchase of a very nicely priced First Night button ($15!), one gains entry to over 200 events throughout Boston’s Back Bay. First Night also provides a lot of fun for families on New Year’s Eve, including a Family Festival at the Hynes Convention Center, the Grand Procession down Boylston Street, colossal ice sculptures that dot the city’s landscape, and a spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

The Grand Procession, photograph by Paul Robicheau, courtesy of First Night

Now celebrated in more than 75 communities across the nation, First Night has become a holiday mainstay and a winter highlight.  Here in New England, First Night spread like wildfire—starting in Boston, but soon heading towards Hartford CT, Burlington VT, Chatham MA, Northampton MA, and so many more. Each city and town puts their own local spin on the event, making each one a very unique experience and a great way to ring in the New Year.

Burlington VT celebrates First Night, photograph by Andy Duback for the Burlington Free Press

For more information about Boston’s First Night, please visit their website and buy your button today! If you are elsewhere in New England, our regional travel expert, Kim Knox Beckius, has pulled together a great deal of information over on her site, New England Travel on About.com.

Happy New Year’s from Union Park Press! We can’t wait to bring you more books about the cultural and natural riches of Boston and New England in 2012!