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Holiday Special returns for new year of festivities

With seemingly endless festive affairs, including low-cost shows, dining deals and numerous free activities, Boston has embraced the holiday season with the ninth annual Mayor’s Holiday Special.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino partnered with nonprofit ArtsBoston, which works with 170 Boston arts organizations to increase audience awareness and participation in holiday festivities throughout the city.

The program provides city-goers with half-priced tickets to popular shows, dinner deals with a $10 voucher for purchases more than $40 at participating restaurants and free activities, including tree and menorah lightings, light shows and visits from Santa.

Tree lightings are a holiday staple in any city, and Boston has 37 of them, said Christopher Cook, director of Arts, Tourism and Special Events for the City of Boston.

Menorah lightings can be found citywide as well, he said. Nonprofit civic and business associations provide funds for the lighting.

“They really make everything possible,” Cook said.

The city partnered with Macy’s to bring Macy’s Enchanted Trolley Tour & Tree Lightings to the public, Cook said.

“The trolley, filled with Santa and his elves, will stop in 17 neighborhoods for a short play and a tree lighting countdown,” he said. “Our job is to provide the labor, and Macy’s provides the money.”

The tour puts donated trolleys, metro sponsors and actors all to good use, providing many residents with the joy of the holidays.

Kim Hine, account director at Slotkin Communications for ArtsBoston, said the program has been successful.

“This is the ninth year we’ve put on the Mayor’s Holiday Special, and each year it grows in popularity,” she said. “This year we’re definitely beating ticket sales of the past. The events offer something everyone can love.”

Cook said the festivities attract a recurring family demographic each year.

“Boston is a great home for the holidays. It’s basically the same people, year to year, who come to these events,” he said. “Some people grew up skating on Frog Pond at the Boston Common and now make it a point to bring their kids there every holiday season. It’s something people keep circled on their calendars.”

The Holiday Special also features a series of artistic performances, including a Clay Aiken performance and a modern interpretation of a holiday classic, “The Nutcracker.”

A new, six-week LED light show, entitled Blink!, entertains people at Faneuil Hall with more than 350,000 lights and Boston Holiday Pops music, according to the Mayor’s Holiday Special website.

Residents from nearby communities said the city does a lot for the holidays.

Lisa Paulino, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom from Uxbridge who stood in line to see Santa Claus at the Prudential Center, said Boston does a lot for the community.

“I don’t attend as often as I would like to, but I go a few times a year,” she said.

Shahid Ullah, 32, a businessman from Brighton, said he was impressed by the grandiosity of the projects.

“The city organizes decorations and light shows almost everywhere,” Ullah said. “When you see every little street here, and there it doesn’t seem that big, but when you see one street, then another street, then another street and put it all together, it’s a really big project. I think it’s quite impressive.”

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