Want to be part of the revolution?
For the first time, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum is inviting people from across the country to participate in its annual reenactment of the Boston Tea Party — and the events leading up to the charged moment that made history — by sending in their own tea leaves to be tossed into Boston Harbor.
Those who decide to ship tea to the company will receive a certificate from the museum proclaiming their involvement in the Dec. 16 event, which is celebrating its 244th anniversary this year.
Shawn P. Ford, vice president and executive director for the museum, said the organization has already stockpiled about 75 to 100 pounds of tea donated by the public. He said the shipments have been accompanied by small notes outlining the reasons those people decided to mail it in.
“We have some notes that say, ‘I’m donating this tea because I’m upset with blah blah blah,’ ” he said. “Some people said, ‘This has been in my cupboard for years; what a great cause to be a patriot.’ The tea party story still resonates today around the globe.”
Ford said the museum plans to make a book, or make available online, some of the messages.
The museum and the Old South Meeting House have teamed up for the last five years to offer a three-part performance reenacting the Boston Tea Party, culminating with the actual dumping of tea into the harbor by actors. The lively presentation closely mirrors the Dec. 16, 1773, protest — fifes and drums and pointed hats included — that helped spark the American Revolution.
Lauren Reddy, a spokeswoman for the Old South Meeting House, said the theatrical event begins with the “meeting of the body of the people” at the historic downtown building. It’s there that actors rehash the final arguments about the tea tax before a procession marches through the city and down to the water, where Griffin’s Wharf once stood, to discard crates of tea.
The event is ticketed except for some of the outdoor portions, where the public can witness the costumed revelry from the sidelines. It does not cost anything to donate tea.
London’s East India Company — it shares the same name as the organization whose tea American settlers sent overboard — is also chipping in for the celebration. The business plans to send more than 220 pounds of loose, expired tea to the museum to be thrown into the water, according to event details.
That tea will be packed in with the donations from the public before its placed into tea chests that will be cracked open with hatchets on the night of the reenactment.
For the environmentally aware, the tea leaves pose no threat to the harbor, according to museum officials, who are given clearance to dump them. The crates that meet the sea are lined with foam so they won’t sink, and get scooped up by crews nearby so the containers don’t float away.
Reddy said including people in this year’s celebration was a way to connect strangers from across the country, at a time when tensions can seem high.
“Even if you’re living in Ohio,” she said. “You can feel like you’re part of this moment in history.”
How to contribute:
Participants should send dried loose leaf tea (no old tea bags allowed) to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, ATTN: “Toss That Tea,” 306 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210. The package should include a name, address, e-mail, and phone number so the museum can send back a certificate. The deadline to send tea is Dec. 1.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.