New England New Year Traditions: First Night & First Hikes

New England New Year Traditions: First Night & First Hikes

Many family-friendly New Year’s celebrations offer a range of opportunities to not only celebrate, but also to explore by inviting families to visit many locations or landmarks in their local communities.  These celebrations includes performances, art shows, hands-on activities, ceremonies and sometimes food!  Such events encourage Western Massachusetts residents to engage their local community and experience it from new perspectives.  The exploratory aspect of such events provides a place-based element to the cultural learning that New Year’s celebrations foster.  Participants can solidify their sense of place as they learn about and become a part of a local culture, tradition and heritage.  Moving through the local landscape offers insight and understanding of home, place and the meaning of local identity and culture.

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Learning Ahead: Nov & Dec Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: November & December

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for November and December includes:

  • Learn about FOOD preservation: Harvest, Butchers & Museums
  • Veterans Day as a CATALYST for learning: Literature, History & Music
  • Looking through the LENS of Thanksgiving: Poetry & Painting
  • VALUE based engagement: Handmade &  Non-Commercial
  • Local HABITAT connects us to myth & nature: Christmas Trees
  • PLACEMAKING with annual events: Holiday Strolls & Caroling
  • Experience other CULTURES through the holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa & Three Kings Day
  • Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Solstice & Storytelling
  • Engage in New England TRADITIONS: First Night & First Hikes

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).

Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: ♦ Montague BookmillNew England Air MuseumDowntown Northampton AssociationSpringfield Museums.

2011: Family Friendly New Year’s Eve Events in Western MA

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Western MA, 2011

The 2012 original poster by Stephen St. Francis Decky.  Stephen St. Francis Decky is an artist and filmmaker from Northampton. His paintings and films have appeared in galleries and festivals nationally and internationally, and his short fiction has been published in several literary journals. He is currently working on his Masters Degree at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Celebrate New Year’s in Hampshire County all day on the 31st at First Night Northampton starting at 12noon!  First Night is a fundraiser for the Northampton Center for the Arts, and it provides an opportunity for families to enjoy many different forms of art, including live music and dance performances.  Over 20 different studios and businesses in downtown Northampton participate in the event, offering a wide variety of venues for showcasing art!

Family-friendly event highlights include a performance from A2Z’s yo-yo team at the Academy of Music Theater, a parade through downtown with the Offbeat Drumming Ensemble and Hooping Harmony, and an acrobat performance from SHOW Circus Studio. Fireworks light up the night sky at 6:15pm, which can be seen from almost anywhere in town! Check their program schedule for a full schedule of events.

Not only is the event fun and for a good cause, but it’s also a way to present new forms of art and expression to your kids.  Try attending a performance of a new kind of dance or a concert of music you’ve never heard!  The “ticket” to the event is a button, which can be purchased on the event’s website.  For more information, visit ($$)

Other New Year’s Eve Highlights for Families in the Four Counties:


12noon-10pm –  GAMES & PLAY: Celebrate the new year with a day of role-playing games and sword play!  There will be rounds of Magic the Gathering, Neflheimer, roleplaying games, and more.  Takes place at Western Mass Family Golf.  Call to register. 413-824-0008. 249 Russell Street.  Hadley, MA.  ($$)


11am-1pm – NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY: Kid’s countdown to noon at Chandlers Restaurant. Great food, party favors and sparkling apple cider to toast with. Live music and a sing-a-long too! Reservations recommended: 413-665-1277. 25 Greenfield Road. South Deerfield, MA ($)

6-10:30pm – FIRST NIGHT: 16th Annual Starry Starry Night celebrates New Year’s Eve int he heart of downtown Orange with live music, dancing, hayrides, giant puppet parade and fireworks! Orange, MA (FREE)


10am-4pm – FIRST NIGHT, JR.: Holyoke’s First Night, Jr. celebration takes place today!  Families can enjoy live music, magic, free admission to the Children’s Museum, a visit to the Merry-Go-Round, ice sculptures, and a ball drop (earlier in the day, just for little ones!).  Holyoke, MA.  ($)


11am – FAMILY PERFORMANCE: SHOW Circus Spectacular presents a circus show at the Berkshire Museum as part of Under the Big Top, the museum’s special Christmas Tree exhibit!  There will be fantastic performances of acrobatics, juggling, and contortion.  413-443-7171.  39 South Street.  Pittsfield, MA.  ($)

Suggested Events 12/25/10-12/31/10

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.


Cookies and milk for Santa. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.


On Friday, December 31st – Noon-Midnight: First Night Northampton: Celebrate New Year’s Eve in downtown Northampton for First Night.  Get your button and check out nearly 20 different venues of entertainment the whole family with enjoy. Hoopoe the Clown, Henry the Juggler, Show Circus, Ed the Balloon Man, John Porcino Storytelling, The Nield Kids Concert, Happy Dan, Dennis Caraher, Otter and Moo Puppet Show, Paintbox Theater, and much more.  Schedule of events here. Northampton, MA ($)


On New Year’s Day at 10am – HIKE: First Day 2011 Hike with Williamsburg Woodland Trails at Bradley Sanctuary. Directions here. 268-7523 Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

Then on Sunday, January 2nd at 4pm – MARIONETTE SHOW: The Cummington Family Center and the Tanglewood Marionettes present Cinderella at the Community House (33 Main St.) Cummington, MA (FREE)


SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email for more information. — Help us help you!

WINTER CAMP: SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA will be holding a winter circus camp for ages 5-7 on December 29 and 8-12 on December 30. This day camp will run from 9am – 3pm and it will cover all aspects of circus including trapeze, fabric, juggling, balancing, acrobatics, partnering, human pyramids, stretching, strength, and circus games. Our 10% discount for more than one child signing up from the same family applies to our camps as well as our classes. Sign up today before the camps fill up! Each camp is limited to 15 students. Cost: $60/child. Register online at or call us at 413-203-4282.

CIRCUS ARTS CLASSES: A new session of week day kid’s circus classes will begin on January 10th at SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA. We will work on trapeze, fabric, juggling, tumbling and acrobatics, human pyramids, balancing, strength and flexibility. Circus is a great way to increase self esteem, have fun, get in shape, improve focus and learn new skills. Classes for students new to circus will be held on Tuesday and Thursday. Ages 5-7 will run from 3:30-4:30pm and ages 8+ will be from 4:30-5:30pm. Continuing circus students are able to choose from Level 2 classes on Monday (ages 5-7 from 3:30-4:30pm and ages 8+  from 4:30-5:30pm) or the SHOW Stars Performance Troupe on Wednesdays (All ages, 4-5:15). Registration is available online. (updated 12/30)

Deadline to Enter to Win: December 28th

DECEMBER SCHOOL VACATION: Historians and educators at Old Sturbridge Village (Sturbridge, MA) are planning lots of indoor and outdoor activities to keep the kids busy – and happy – during December school vacation week (Dec. 26- Jan. 2). The fun includes ice skating (weather permitting – bring your own skates), sledding on 1830s-style sleds, and sleigh rides (snow permitting). A new exhibit of antique ice skates from the Antique Ice Skate Club will be on view, including elaborately decorated vintage figure skates from the 1800s. For more info visit or call 800-1830

Deadline to Enter to Win: January 3rd

CITIZEN SCIENTIST: Every year, MassWildlife participates in a midwinter eagle survey that occurs nationwide. This year, the Midwinter Bald Eagle survey period begins on December 29, 2010 and ends January 12, 2011. Everyone who is outdoors and sees an eagle during this time period is encouraged to report his or her sighting! You can send your report to Please provide the date, time, location, and town of eagle sightings, plus the number of birds, whether juvenile or adult, and your contact information. Bald eagle sightings in the hilltowns include the Chesterfield Gorge, and just off of Route 9 in Chesterfield, so keep a look out!

Deadline to Enter to Win: January 4th

FOOD FOR COMMUNITY SENIORS: Know of grandparents in our community who could benefit from a free bag of groceries? The Food Bank’s Brown Bag: Food for Elders program supplies a free monthly bag of groceries in 51 western Massachusetts towns for people ages 55 and older who meet income guidelines. To sign up for the program, call the Food Bank at 413-247-9738. Help get the word out to area seniors. Print this info out and post it in your town hall, post office or library for our senior’s to discover.


This holiday season we will have several Holiday Podcasts available to download. Click on the banner to see which ones are available.  Fill your home with holiday music and stories featured on the Hilltown Family Variety Show. Stories you’ll find include Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Trees of the Dancing Goats.

Tune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am. Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • Podcast: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!


    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Playgroups & Family Centers | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Listen Here

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    Suggested Events 12/27/08-01/02/09

    Happy New Year!  How does your family ring in the New Year?

    First Night Northampton 2007

    First Night Northampton 2007

    This coming week we welcome in another new year!   How does your family ring in the New Year?  Fireworks?  First day hike? Culinary traditions are very popular. In Spain they eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds. In the Netherlands it’s apple fritters. And down South it’s black-eyed peas.  Share with us in our comment box, local listserv or over on the HF Facebook page.


    If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

    Events Happening in the Hilltowns


    Wednesday, December 31st, is First Night Northampton.  The city fills with family-friendly festivities from noon until midnight.  The celebration begins at the Northampton Center for the Arts with a parade, followed by entertainment options at venues throughout downtown.  Fireworks will be at 6:15pm, and the evening is filled with much talent and creativity.  Participants must purchase a button that allows you into all venues.  Find out more at the official First Night Northampton 2009 website.

    SATURDAY – 12/27

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