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.
First Night Boston
36 Bromfield St., Ste. 204
Boston, MA 02108
617-542-1399; fax: 617-426-9531
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 254

Celebrated in: Massachusetts

References in periodicals archive ?
Admission to First Night Worcester 2015 events requires a First Night button.
WORCESTER -- It's all aboard for First Night Worcester 2015.
We are committed to going forward (with the event),'' said First Night Worcester executive director Howard McGinn on Monday.
A fundraising site for First Night Worcester has been set up on GoFundMe.
My goal is to have something festive and fun with an element of surprise," said First Night Worcester executive director Howard McGinn.
31 as First Night Worcester 2013, a celebration of the arts and the community, gets under way at locations such as City Hall Plaza and Mechanics Hall and runs until midnight to welcome in the New Year.
WORCESTER - First Night Worcester 2012 celebrations tunefully turned the page on 2011 with music, dance, magic - and a parade and fireworks to ring out the old and ring in the new.
We made it here," said First Night Worcester veteran Dorothy Hargrove - well known for her New Year's Eve costumes, and this time dressed in flowing purple and yellow red robes - as the procession came to a stop in front of the Hilton Garden Inn next to the DCU Center.
First Night Worcester will be throwing a party Saturday night.
But it's also "Happy 30th," as this will be the 30th First Night Worcester, a community celebration and arts festival that has become one of Worcester's signature happenings of the year.
It's all systems go,'' said Howard McGinn, executive director of First Night Worcester, the nonprofit organization that has put on annual New Year's Eve performances and celebrations in Worcester since 1982.
First Night buttons, (currently $10) get the wearer into all events as well as free admission into several Worcester area museums.