New Year’s Eve Community Celebrations Support a Sense of Place Through Social Connections

Community Celebrations of the New Year Offer Deeply Embedded Learning Opportunities

As 2015 comes to a close, opportunities arise for families to engage with their communities in meaningful ways. Communities across western Massachusetts hold special celebratory events of many kinds, offering families opportunities to share in the joy of celebrating all that has happened in the past year and to learn about and reflect on the ways in which we celebrate. 

Many family-friendly New Year’s celebrations offer opportunities to not only celebrate, but to explore – inviting families to visit many locations or landmarks for a variety of reasons, including performances, art shows, hands-on activities, ceremonies, and even sometimes food! This exploratory element of such events provides a place-based element to the cultural learning that New Year’s celebrations invite; families can use their explorations to solidify their sense of place as they learn about and become a part of local culture. Moving through the local landscape, whether familiar or not, allows physical context to be added to families’ understanding and experience of celebration – offering them insight as to the ways in which the celebration they’re engaging in has developed and deepening a sense of place. Here are several to consider this New Year’s Eve, celebrating the last day & night of 2015:

Holyoke from 10am-4pm: The Holyoke Merry-Go-Round and Holyoke Children’s Museum present the 19th Annual First Night Junior. This year’s theme is the movie Frozen — come dressed as your favorite character! Activities include rides on the Merry-Go-Round, dancing, indoor skating in your socks with the Frozen characters, a circus show, Forest Park Zoo on the Go, face painting, crafts, and a New Year’s Eve ball drop.
413-536-7048. 444 Dwight Street, Holyoke, MA. ($)

South Deerfield at 11am: Kids can count down to 12 (noon, that is) and toast the new year with apple cider and noise makers at Chandler’s Restaurant‘s Kids New Year’s Eve Party. Interactive live entertainment by guitarist Tom Carroll. Full kids menu and lunch menu available. Reservations suggested.
413-665-1277. 25 Greenfield Road, South Deerfield, MA. ($)

Pittsfield from 11am-2pm: Welcome the new year Wild-West style at the Berkshire Museum. Dress up like a cowboy, try your hand at roping, have your photo taken in the desert, and take a break from the trail at the saloon, where you can play cards and grab some grub. Children 3 and under free.
413-443-7171. 39 South Street (Route 7), Pittsfield, MA. (<$ Members, $$ Non-members)

Northampton from 12pm-12am: Welcome the new year at First Night Northampton, a 12-hour family-friendly festival of music, theater, puppetry, dancing, and more. From 2pm-5pm, you can stop by Historic Northampton for family-friendly craft activities and photo booth. Fireworks at 6:15pm. Ball-raising at Hotel Northampton at midnight.
413-584-7327. Downtown, Northampton, MA. ($$)

Shelburne Falls from  6pm-8pm: Early Night 2015!, an all-ages New Year’s Eve celebration sponsored by the Shelburne Recreation Committee, takes place at Cowell Gymnasium. Activities include an inflatable bouncy house, hundreds of balloons to play with on the floor, dancing, music, crafts, games, refreshments, and a New Year’s countdown with a silver basketball drop.
413-625-3054. 51 Maple Street, Shelburne Falls, MA. (FREE)

Orange starting at 6pm: Orange Revitalization Partnership presents the 20th Annual Starry Starry Night, with music, dance, and puppetry performances — plus hayrides and ice sculptures — throughout the downtown area. Parade of Stars at 10pm and Fireworks Finale at 10:15pm.
Orange, MA. (FREE)

Hancock at 10:15pm: Welcome the new year on the mountain! The New Year’s Eve celebration is a tradition at Jiminy Peak. Join the Torchlight Parade, led by the Ski Patrol down the mountain to JJ’s Lodge. Then enjoy the fireworks display.
413-738-5500. 37 Corey Road, Hancock, MA.

In addition to all of the deep experiential learning that New Year’s celebrations offer, special end-of-year events are also loads of fun! These annual cultural celebrations include all kinds of unique and interesting things to see and do, and include everything from indoor bounce houses to wintertime fireworks! For youngsters, the element of fun is the true draw to community events celebrating the New Year – as it should be. While spending an evening wide-eyed and excited, children engage in the deeper embedded socially-based learning that community celebrations have to offer without awareness that they are doing so, and such experiences can help to build the foundation upon which true understanding of culture is built.

[Photo credits: (cc) carol and co;  (cc) Edd Sowden]

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