This Monday, April 18 is Patriot’s Day – a unique secular holiday that is a source of great pride in Massachusetts.
Patriot’s Day has origins here that go back to the very early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, according to Bridgewater State University history professor Bill Hanna and it used to be known as Fasting Day, which was a Puritan holiday held before the planting season where people fasted and prayed.
Fasting Day was celebrated in Boston as early as 1670, Hanna said in a recent Boston Globe article.
“It was meant to pray for avoidance of the plague. They also mixed in hope for the coming growing season. It was a day of reflection,” he said in the Boston Globe article.
But by the late 1800s, the article notes, few people in Massachusetts and New England were celebrating Fasting Day anymore, and the governor at the time, Frederic Greenhalge, was looking to replace it with a new holiday.
At the same time, according to UMass Lowell American history professor Abby Chandler, interest in collecting and celebrating Revolutionary War history was on the rise.
By the 1860s and the Civil War, Chandler said, northern states like Massachusetts had a vested interest in culturally establishing the north as the “true United States,” which sparked interest by Massachusetts historians into the colony’s role in the Revolutionary War.
This is the time when one of the most culturally influential Revolutionary War remembrances was published — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which immortalized the phrase “One, if by land, and two, if by sea.”
By the 1870s, Chandler said, knowing their historic role in the Revolutionary War, the towns of Lexington and Concord were looking towards the centennial of these events in 1875 and the centennial of the war in 1876 as fuel for tourism.
“They really start campaigning for being the places that people need to come to truly understand The American Revolution,” she said in the article.
The battle of Lexington and Concord was one of the first battles in the pre-Revolutionary War period, and became a victory for the colonists because of the ride of Paul Revere and two other riders.
By the 1890s, Chandler said, both the towns of Lexington and Concord were appealing to Gov. Greenhalge to make Patriots Day a holiday in honor of the battles of Lexington and Concord.
The problem was, both towns wanted to be the center of the celebrations, the article notes.
“The governor is handed a bit of a challenge here because, yes, [the battle] starts in Lexington, and yes, it continues in Concord, but most of the British soldiers were killed on their retreat back to Boston. So you can’t settle it down to one town,” Chandler said.
So in 1894, Greenhalge decided to make Patriots Day a statewide holiday, replacing Fasting Day.
Just three years later, in 1897, the Boston Marathon was run for the first time on Patriot’s Day and this coveted 126 year old event, is a huge Patriot’s Day tradition to this very day.
A third uniquely Massachusetts tradition that began 62 years ago is the 11:05 a.m. morning Boston Red Sox game at iconic Fenway Park. According to the website entitled Boston Pastime website, Patriot’s Day baseball in Boston marks the only morning game on the entire Major League Baseball schedule. The annual day game at Fenway Park is part of the festivities of Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, and this year will not disappoint as the Boston Red Sox will play the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park starting at 11:05 a.m. sharp.
For 10th year in a row, the team will wear their “Boston” home jerseys. The team will don their yellow and blue City Connect jerseys on Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17 as well.
Make sure to try and enjoy Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts in your own special way! It is a unique holiday and although Maine and Wisconsin are two states that also honor the events that led to the American Revolution, there is no question that Massachusetts really does hold its own on this day and it is a day we are all honored to be a part of the Bay State!