Tag Archives: boston

The Blizzard of 2015

Snowdrift in Boston


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Happy 2015

Beacon Hill Winter Wreath

Beacon Hill Winter Wreath

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12 Days of New England Christmas Traditions (Day 12): First Night

To mark the last of our 12 New England Christmas traditions, let’s talk about New Years Eve. This festive night falls right in the middle of the twelve days of Christmas (if you’re only familiar with the song, the twelve days span from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th).

One New England tradition that has become popular over the past 40 years is First Night. Established in Boston in 1975, First Night is a series of events that take place in public spaces like the Boston Public Library, churches, and performance halls, and local attractions like the New England Aquarium and the Paul Revere House. The events last throughout the day and night and range from puppet shows to ice sculpture competitions to plays and concerts. Many of the events are free. Two fireworks displays are featured–one at midnight over Boston Harbor and another earlier in the evening over Boston Common.

First Night was established to provide a family-friendly New Years activity as well as to promote Boston-area attractions. Since Boston began the tradition, other New England cities including Hartford, Portsmouth, and Providence (they call it Bright Night; no celebration is planned this year) have started similar celebrations.

Check out Boston’s First Night 2015.

Revisiting some of these New England traditions has been fun. I look forward to writing more about New England here next year and wish everyone a healthy, happy, and peaceful 2015!

Photo: WBUR.org

Photo: WBUR.org

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12 Days of New England Christmas Traditions (Day 9): Holiday Pops

In 1973, Arthur Fiedler, long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, introduced the Holiday Pops. The celebration was called “A Pops Christmas Party” and featured the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Typical of Fiedler’s Pops, the concert was aimed at a mass audience, with accessible, crowd-pleasing musical selections. Over the years, the Holiday Pops has included narrations of “The Night Before Christmas” (some featuring special guests like Boston’s former mayor Thomas Menino), audience sing-a-longs, and guest choirs and choruses.

In 1985, the Holiday Pops was televised for the first time. Forty-one years later, the Holiday Pops is still going strong. This year, the performance, which takes place in Boston’s Symphony Hall, features former Pops conductor and composer John Williams’s score to the holiday-themed film Home Alone. The program runs until December 31.


Photo: Boston.com





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12 Days of New England Christmas Traditions (Day 2): The Nova Scotia Tree

On December 6, 1917, the SS Mont-Blanc, a French ship laden with ammunition, collided with another vessel in the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Mont-Blanc caught fire and its ammunitions exploded, causing devastating damage to the city. Estimates indicate that between 1,700-2,000 people were killed by collapsed buildings, flying debris, and other after-effects of the explosion. More than 9,000 were injured. Some sources claim the explosion was the largest man-made blast before the invention of nuclear weapons. The explosion was so large that it created a tsunami that wiped out all the inhabitants of a First Nations settlement on the other side of the harbor. 

Relief came from around Canada and American cities like Chicago, but Boston made particularly generous contributions. When Bostonians learned of the disaster, they organized a relief train that included medical personnel and supplies. The train reached Halifax on December 8 (it was delayed one day due to a snowstorm).

To show their appreciation (and highlight tourism and trade opportunities), Nova Scotia Christmas tree farmers sent Boston a tree for the holidays in 1918. This idea was revived in 1971, and since then the government of Nova Scotia has sent an official Christmas tree to Boston every year. They even have guidelines to ensure the quality of the tree (it must be a white or blue spruce of a certain height and density).

Each year, the city of Boston holds a ceremony to light the tree, and it stands on Boston Common throughout the season.  

Read about the 2014 tree.
Read more about the Halifax Explosion.

Nova Scotia tree for Boston

Photo: CBC

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12 Days of New England Christmas Traditions (Day 1): Joe Froggers

Here is the first in my 12 Days of Christmas series with New England traditions as the theme (it’s actually 11 days of Christmas at this point, but let’s pretend otherwise).

I’d like to start with everyone’s favorite Christmas food: the cookie!

The popular holiday molasses-spice cookie known as “Joe Froggers” is a deliciously chewy treat that goes back to the eighteenth century. A free (formerly enslaved) African American and Revolutionary War veteran by the name of Joseph Brown ran a tavern with his wife Lucretia in Marblehead, Mass. Lucretia made these delectable, pancake-sized treats and served them up to guests who christened them “Joe Froggers” after the frog pond located next to the tavern. Variations of the story claim that the “frogger” name came from the frog-leg shapes the cookie batter made while cooking in the pan. Fittingly, given the gingerbread-like flavor of this cookie, the Browns lived in an area of Marblehead known as Gingerbread Hill.

Joseph was born a slave, and he was called “Old Black Joe” by many whites in town, a breathtakingly casual racist appellation that was common in those times. He became a free man who could own property (thanks in part to the Massachusetts Constitution) after the war. The tavern he and Lucretia ran was integrated, but it was one of the few places in Marblehead, with a population that was only 5% African American, that could be described as such. While much of his history (which regiment he fought in, for example) has been lost, Joseph Brown’s name has been associated with the popular cookies although they were actually created by his wife.

The rum, molasses, nutmeg, and cloves in Joe Froggers are ingredients you find in many old-fashioned New England recipes, so this cookie is definitely a paean to the past. And with its ginger and allspice, it’s a perfect treat for the holidays (some modern sweet tooths add frosting, but in my opinion, this cookie is better without it) and remains popular in New England homes and bakeries.

Check out the recipe here.

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Nor’easter! Or, 5 things you should not do during a snowstorm


It’s the first storm of 2014, folks! And the weather reporters are in their glory (recently spotted: a local news reporter waving a towel to show it was windy outside). As someone who used to live in Central New York, I am not freaking out at the -20 windchill forecast for tomorrow; in the Finger Lakes, that is called “every day in winter.”

Here are some things I wish people would not do during a snowstorm, and I say this as a battle-tested veteran of many a Nor’easter, blizzard, “snow event” or whatever you want to call it (although I refuse to call it Hercules, because The Weather Channel is alone on that one).

1. Don’t buy just bread, milk, and alcohol. This is so cliche. You will be stuck with this food for the next couple of days, and it’s going to get old fast (okay, maybe the alcohol won’t, but believe me you can only have so much toast and peanut butter sandwiches). I was happy to see on Twitter that snow-fearin’ hipsters had busted out of the bread-milk-alcohol mold and cleaned out the bagged organic carrots section of the JP Whole Foods.

2. If you are a news reporter or meteorologist, there is a whole other list of things you should not be doing (showing shots of snow to illustrate it is snowing, touching said snow and informing us that it is light, sticking a ruler in the snow to show there is more of it now, etc.) But you will be doing all of these things anyway, because you are cheesy and predictable. For those of us watching, the least we can do is play Snowstorm News Coverage Bingo (courtesy of Reddit user Adorasaurusrex).

3. For the love of god, don’t skimp on salt for the damn sidewalk in front of your house. I’m lookin’ at you, rich Beacon Hill types who can totally pay somebody else to put salt down even if you are currently in your West Palm Beach digs, laughing at the weather coverage. If there’s one thing you guys won’t find funny, it’s a lawsuit from some poor schmuck who takes a digger on the ice slick in front of your house.

4. Don’t put your trash out when it’s just starting to snow. I see knuckleheads do this all the time. How is the trash crew supposed to find it? Radar? Hold your horses and put it out in the morning when the snow starts to let up. I guarantee that even if trash service isn’t cancelled, it’s going to be late.

5. Stop complaining about the snow if you live here (especially if you’re a native). More than this, stop being shocked that we are getting “so much snow!” It’s New England. Buck up or move somewhere warm. Some of us are crazy enough to love winter and all the snow that comes with it, and that’s one of the reasons why we live here!

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Summer In the City

The always beautiful Public Garden.


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