Tea Time: Boston prepares for 250th anniversary of pivotal harbor dumping

Thousands anticipated to attend day filled with events on Dec. 16

Tea bags are arriving from all over the country for a semiquincentennial celebration in Boston.

The Boston Tea Party’s 250th anniversary is celebrated on December 16 with reenactments, retrospectives, and, of course, the dumping of British tea into Boston Harbor.

Revolution 250, a coalition of more than 70 Massachusetts organizations working to make all of the day’s events a reality, is leading these efforts.

According to Revolution 250 Executive Director Jonathan Lane, the Old South Meeting House, Downtown Crossing, Harborwalk, and Faneuil Hall will be flooded with Bostonians and visitors to commemorate the occasion.

Lane told the Herald that reenactments and commemorating a pivotal point in our nation’s history should not be limited to Boston, with other communities in the state also playing important roles in achieving independence.

“When we talk about the revolution, we want to talk about not just about the Boston Tea Party, and Lexington and Concord, we want to talk about the people of Great Barrington, Worcester and Bristol County,” said Lane. “Every community has a stake in this narrative, and we want every community to feel like they have a story to tell we want to work with them to tell that story.”

According to Evan O’Brien, creative manager for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, they have received tea from all 50 states and other parts of the world to be dumped for a variety of reasons.

“Some people want to have their tea sent in to participate and receive a certificate, which is a great reason to do it, but others are using this opportunity to talk about causes that matter to them, whether personal or political,” she said. “We even received 250 pounds of tea from the East India Company, still in London.”

Whether the bulk send is a joke or not, there are a variety of reasons why people of all ages and backgrounds want to participate in this global demonstration, according to O’Brien.

According to O’Brien, the story of the American Revolution and its events is not a “dead story” that the public should always keep in mind when thinking about modern-day America.

Lane, a direct descendant of Sons of Liberty member William Breck, explained what it means to him, his family, and the families of other Sons of Liberty descendants to lead the charge in this commemoration.

“In talking about my ancestors, there is an element of humble pride,” Lane went on to say. “I am very proud of the fact that they recognized their rights and liberties in the same way I feel about people who decided to emigrate to America.”

Lane explained that America is experiencing a different type of revolution now than during the country’s Bicentennial in 1976. A divisive country emerging from the Vietnam War and recovering from the political scandal that was Watergate was riddled with racial hostility and economic uncertainty.

As a 10-year-old on the Bay State’s South Shore, he remembered the Bicentennial as a time when he could step back from the chaos of everyday life and consider how these communities made up this nation celebrating 200 years of freedom from British rule.

“You really can, through public service, public charity and nonprofit support, build a strong and vibrant community without being president of the United States,” Lane told the crowd. “I think that’s really something that I would love to see come out of the 250th anniversary.”

Shawn Ford, executive director of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, emphasized Lane’s point, saying that the Boston Tea Party revolt, as well as many other pivotal moments leading up to the Declaration of Independence, were fueled by ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.

“Who of us today would be willing to throw our livelihood, our families, our fortunes at property out the window, based on an idea that had a 100% chance of failure,” Ford said in a statement. “People today don’t always understand the significance of what happened 250 years ago.”

Ford emphasized that the public should understand that the Boston Tea Party had nothing to do with taxes or tea, but rather with representation. Who knows what modern-day “America” would look like if the Tea Party had not occurred and ordinary citizens had not made their opposition to the British known, he said.

“We could still be British today,” Ford speculated. “It’s incomprehensible to consider. We might still be a part of the British empire if the Tea Party had not occurred. What happened in Boston 250 years ago, and what is still happening here today, changes the world.”

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