Because I really only think about it during the Fourth of July, I tend to associate the Boston Tea Party with summertime. On a frozen Monday night in the middle of December, with the dedicated efforts of many volunteers, I realized how mistaken I had been.
The Old South Meeting House sits near the heart of Boston, buried deep in the winding streets of the city, and is open to the public for tours daily. Every year on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the Old South Meeting House and Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum organize dozens of volunteers to recreate the historic evening.
Inside, the Meeting House debate about tea, taxes and the crown rages on as it did 240 years ago. Ticket holders listen to the spirited debate of the reenactors, and are given opportunities to join in. Without a ticket ($16.50), I was still able to join in the fun as a member of an “angry mob” (read: cold and docile) in the front of the building. Outside three “colonial” women continued the debate, two advocating dumping the tea and while the other called for peace. All three generally kept us entertained while we waited for the parade. Throughout the entire evening, these reenactors continually provided amusing historical anecdotes and answered questions from children.
After milling about in the cold for half an hour, the crowd, including bundled children of all ages, joined with the ticket holders in a procession through the streets. One of the best things about the city of Boston is how much they commit to these kinds of community events. I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout of a few hundred people, all marching through the streets of Boston, lead by pipes and drums. Streets closed down for us as bemused pedestrians and motorists stumbled through, discordantly chanting “Dump the Tea!”
Turning onto Congress street, we were greeted by a squad of Red Coats, complete with muskets. They stood for pictures and yelled at the rebels to disperse, reminding us that we were subjects of King George III. As we thundered down Congress, the mix of the old and the new of Boston became more apparent. The historical trail cuts right through the heart of the Financial District, and as our chants bounced off the glass walls of skyscrapers, we found ourselves at Griffins Wharf, home to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
After ticket holders were lead into bleacher-seating, the rest of us were able to stand along the waterfront to watch the reenactment continue on the Brig Beaver. Before the event continued, Boston mayor Tom Menino spoke about the importance of the event to both Boston and to the nation. His remarks concluded, and the rebels commenced boarding the boat and dispensing with the tea. It is one thing to read about an event, or even take a tour, but to be a part of a rebellious mob is something more than priceless. If Boston is going to be a holiday destination, I recommend getting tickets and experiencing it yourself.