With balmy spring-like temperatures behind them in Louisiana, New Orleanian sisters Audrey, Lucy, and Evelyn Burvant — ages 7, 9, and 11 — could not be happier to be spending the New Year holiday in frosty Boston.
“We love playing in the snow,” declared Lucy as she and her family stopped in Boylston Plaza outside the Prudential Center on Sunday to admire ice carvings for Boston’s annual First Night celebration.
“The girls are all about making snow angels and snowmen,” said their mom, Beth Burvant, 42.
As the New Year approached, others anticipated similar icy enthusiasms. Frozen men, women, sharks, and octopuses were on display, in ice sculptures carved for the city’s annual First Night celebration. A parade was planned to wind through the snow-glazedstreets of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. And hundreds of thousands were expected to brave the frigid midnight air to view a fireworks display over Boston Harbor.
Festivities were scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Monday with events on Boylston Plaza and in the Hynes Convention Center and culminate with the fireworks.
This is the first year an ice sculpture will appear at Boylston Plaza rather than Boston Common. First Night spokeswoman Joyce Linehan said the shift was made because an increasing number of performances are scheduled for nearby venues such as Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall, and the Berklee Performance Center.
Linehan, who said this was her 13th year with First Night, said all was ready. “This one seems pretty calm,” she said. “Everything seems to be pretty much on track.”
Around the region on Sunday, people were preparing for the holiday in their own ways. Some planned quiet evenings, while others had champagne and dancing in mind.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino, recently released from a two-month hospital stay, planned a private holiday, hosting his annual New Year’s gathering with friends and family at the Parkman House, a city-owned residence on Beacon Hill, said spokeswoman Dot Joyce.
South End resident John Schwope, who paused to snap an iPhone photo of the Boylston Plaza ice sculpture, also planned to stay home and skip the crowds.
“I’ve lived here for 15 years, and so it’s sort of been-there-done-that,” Schwope, 33, said of First Night. “It’s sort of a mob scene.”
Friends Irina Danilova, 41, and Olga Khazanov, 34, Russian immigrants who live in Watertown, said they would attend a party at Garage Lounge, a new Allston nightclub where their friend will deejay.
They said the New Year is celebrated more extensively in Russia, where Soviet-era prohibitions on religious celebrations made secular holidays more important.
Russians celebrate at home, they said, with gatherings of family and friends for a huge feast, “like Thanksgiving and Christmas combined,” said Danilova, 41.
On Boylston Plaza, ice sculptor Donald Chapelle was carrying on his own tradition.
Chapelle, 54, has been carving ice for First Night celebrations for 26 years, and now his sons Julian, 26, and Ryan, 25, are among the dozen sculptors bringing his vision to life.
Family and tradition are part of the Chapelles’ sculpture, as well. This year’s piece is a sequel to their 2006 work, which depicted a young brother and sister snorkeling in the Florida Keys. This year they are college students diving near the Great Barrier Reef.
“Unbeknownst to them, there are dangers that lurk below,” Donald Chapelle said.
In Hynes Convention Center, two disparate troupes prepared for First Night performances.
On the third-floor, guitarists Mike Gintz, 31, and Jake Estner, 28, tested out a few chords after tuning their instruments down to the bass register.
The two are among about 20 guitarists and 10 other musicians performing in the Animal Hospital Ensemble, which plays rock music in the manner of an orchestra.
“With these songs, the change isn’t individual people playing the things they’re playing differently, it’s new people coming in,” Gintz said.
Jamaica Plain resident Kevin Micka performs solo under the name Animal Hospital and leads the ensemble, which performs in a circle with the audience seated in the center.
“So each person who is seated in the audience gets their own unique perspective,” said Micka, 36.
Downstairs, conceptual artist Pat Oleszko was helping volunteers into such costumes as a weeping Planet Earth, an oil-slicked pelican, and an iceberg with a palm tree and a rat sunning himself.
The project, called “Global Warning: Writhin’ Sea Change,”is a satirical take on the potential outcomes of climate change, Oleszko explained.
“I’m hard-hearted and a realist, but I have a functional sense of humor, so that’s how I deal with negativity,” Oleszko said.
Across town in Roxbury’s Hawthorne Youth and Community Center, a jolly chaos prevailed as children, parents, artists, and volunteers constructed a glittery 12-foot lobster for the parade.
Six-year-old Rayven Moss helped paint a wooden base that supported Louie the Lobster and earlier had crocheted tendrils of seaweed for a nautically themed mobile.
“I like crocheting and painting,” Moss said.
“She likes singing out of tune to the radio,” Eleanor Sutherland, 12, said playfully.
The children were planning to walk in the festival’s grand procession at 5:30 p.m. Monday, but Sutherland wasn’t excited. She’s been in the parade every year since she was 5, she said.
So what is she looking forward to in 2013?
“I’m hoping to go to a One Direction concert,” she said.Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.