First Night

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first night

a. the first public performance of a play or other production
b. (as modifier): first-night nerves

First Night

First Night is the name of an alternative New Year's Eve celebration begun in Boston in the year 1976. The organizers of this event promoted the festivities as an alcohol-free, family-oriented New Year's celebration. Its success prompted an organization called "First Night International" to trademark the phrase "First Night," so that all cities that wish to organize a festival by that name must first join the organization and pay a fee. The First Night idea has caught on, and now over 150 American cities host these festivities on December 31. First Night celebrations have also spread to a number of locations in Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

First Night festivals feature a variety of acts, events, and demonstrations showcasing the visual and performing arts. Festival organizers draw primarily on local artists and entertainers. Cities generally stage First Night festivals in a central location and the atmosphere may resemble that of a street fair. Although some open-air entertainment is available to everyone, people who wish to attend events scheduled for indoor venues generally have to buy a pass (usually in the form of a button they wear on their clothing) which entitles them to attend all the events.

One of the stated goals of First Night International is to wean people away from more boisterous, alcohol-laden New Year's Eve celebrations. Their efforts may be viewed as the latest twist on a campaign to reform the midwinter holidays that dates back to the time of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation (see Puritans). Over the centuries various Protestant religious groups have criticized the rowdy and often drunken celebrations that characterize many traditional New Year's Eve celebrations. They tried instead to promote the idea that New Year's Eve is an occasion for serious reflection on one's past, prayer for the future, renewal of one's commitment to serve God, and the setting of personal goals for the coming year (see Resolutions; Watch Night). The objectives of First Night International are somewhat less lofty. Beyond decreasing alcohol consumption on New Year's Eve, they aim to promote a sense of community, provide family-oriented entertainment, deepen public appreciation for the arts, and bring new life to downtown areas.

Further Reading

Henderson, Helene, and Sue Ellen Thompson, eds. Holidays, Festivals, andCelebrations of the World Dictionary. Second edition. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1997.

Web Site

First Night™ International posts a web site at the following address:

First Night (Boston, Massachusetts)

December 31
First Night originated in Boston as an annual New Year's Eve celebration of the arts. This citywide festival was first held in 1976 to change the drinking and partying that have traditionally marked New Year's Eve celebrations in most American cities into a night of family entertainment. It has proved so successful that 65 other cities in the United States and Canada have followed Boston's lead.
To bring both inner city and suburban communities together, 1,000 artists in Boston offer a wide variety of artistic events and performances at 70 indoor and outdoor sites in Boston's Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, downtown, and waterfront areas. In recent years more than one million residents and visitors have been drawn to places in the city where they would not normally walk after dark.
CONTACTS:
First Night Boston
36 Bromfield St., Ste. 204
Boston, MA 02108
617-542-1399; fax: 617-426-9531
www.firstnight.org
SOURCES:
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 254

Celebrated in: Massachusetts

References in classic literature ?
The first night I slept under both of them, and the second night I slept on top of them; but by watching the other boys I learned my lesson in this, and have been trying to follow it ever since and to teach it to others.
He was to go up to tea the first night, just as if he were a sixth or fifth form boy, and of importance in the School world, instead of the most reckless young scapegrace amongst the fags.
The third plague was, however much of provision and food might be prepared in the king's courts, were there even so much as a year's provision of meat and drink, none of it could ever be found, except what was consumed upon the first night.
That was the first night of my new duties; and in the course of the next day I had got well into the run of them.
asked Ned, as they sat at supper, the first night after their arrival, eating of several dishes, the red- pepper condiments of which caused frequent trips to the water pitcher.
We would do up the paper again, just as it was, and slip in, very elaborate and soft, and lay it on the bunk again, and let on WE didn't know about any trick, and hadn't any idea he was a-laughing at us behind them bogus snores of his'n; and we would stick by him, and the first night we was ashore we would get him drunk and search him, and get the di'monds; and DO for him, too, if it warn't too risky.
Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby.
Four of the crew waited at the door, and conducted us to that cell where we had passed our first night on board the Nautilus.
He recalled to his mind the details of the first night, and with a beating heart and a brain on fire he re-entered the hotel and flew toward Kitty's chamber.
Yet I have told you how, on the first night here, I heard her sobbing bitterly, and since then I have more than once observed traces of tears upon her face.
to tell me that the first night he had brought you with him on false pretences.
They were so excited that the first night they went to bed in what they could call a home they lay awake talking till three in the morning; and next day found lighting the fire and making their own coffee, which they had in pyjamas, such a jolly business that Philip did not get to Amitrano's till nearly eleven.