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250th anniversary of Boston Tea Party to feature reenactment

Kristin Harris, the research coordinator at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, emptied tea that had been sent to the museum to be thrown in the Boston Harbor on Dec. 16 for the 250th anniversary.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Thousands of people are expected to line Boston Harbor later this month on the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party to watch reenactors dump hundreds of pounds of tea, donated from all over the world, into the water as part of a “grand-scale” reenactment of the historic 1773 event.

On Dec. 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty dumped more than 300 crates of tea from the British East India Company into the Boston Harbor to protest “taxation without representation” in British Parliament.

It was one of the first major acts of defiance against British rule and “changed the course of American history,” said Evan O’Brien, creative director at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, which is hosting the Dec. 16 event.


People from all over the world have sent tea to Boston to be dumped into the harbor, including 250 pounds from the British East India Company.

The museum has received 3,500 individual submissions of tea, and while most contain a small envelope, some groups, such as Daughters of the American Revolution, have sent recreated tea chests and other art projects.

“We’ve received handwritten letters with all kinds of personal reasons why people are contributing tea and it’s been very moving to see,” O’Brien said.

The loose-leaf tea that will be dumped in the water is biodegradable and has a similar impact to leaves falling from a tree, O’Brien said. Immediately after the reenactment, a team will be dispatched on boats into the channel to remove the chests and detritus from the production. “We’re taking environmental impact very seriously,” O’Brien said.

The event will begin at 4 p.m. at Faneuil Hall with a 90-minute presentation on how the protest unfolded and its aftermath. Tickets for inside the hall have sold out, but screens will be set up outside for additional viewers and the presentation will be streamed online.


At 6:15 p.m. at the Old South Meeting House, actors will reenact the “Meeting of the Body of the People” where 5,000 men gathered for a meeting about the tea tax. Tickets have sold out.

At 7:15 p.m., people will march from the Old South Meeting House to the Boston Harborwalk, encountering British redcoats in Post Office Square on the way.

Thousands are expected to join for the grand finale where actors will reenact the historic event by storming a brig and ship and destroying the tea chests. Limited bleacher seats will be available with additional standing room and an online stream.

O’Brien said the support from the public and the city has been “overwhelming,” and he is “excited to see all the hard work come to life.”

Talia Lissauer can be reached at talia.lissauer@globe.com. Follow her on Instgram @_ttphotos.