One of my favorite events of the year by far is Patriots Day. Observed on the third Monday in April as a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, Patriots Day official commemorates the events of April 19, 1775. On that day, British troops marched from Boston towards Concord in order to seize armaments stored by the defiant colonists and also maybe arrest a few of their leaders. With the word spread to the countryside by riders like Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, the colonists were ready to meet and face off against the British regulars on Lexington Green. This is where the famous if mysterious “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was fired. The British troops later encountered more resistance at North Bridge in Concord, and found themselves harassed by colonials as they retreated back to Boston. These events initiated the American Revolution which eventually led to the American colonies declaring and fighting for Independence.
For nine years I’ve sworn to myself I would arise early and go to Lexington to see the reenactment, and for nine years I’ve failed to do so. This year I thought I would get up at 4 am and ride my bike to Lexington (thus not only getting a good ride but also not having to worry about parking), but I have some very good excuses for not doing so. First of all I’ve been feeling sick the past week, spending pretty much all of Sunday in bed. Second, the weather here in Massachusetts has been absolutely wet and miserable and not amenable to bike rides, battle reenactments, nor parades. I felt guilty about not getting out and participating but I found out after the fact on Tuesday that the reenactments and parades in both Lexington and Concord were canceled due to the extremely bad weather. I’m glad I didn’t haul myself out there and find out on the spot.
Last year I took the commuter train to the more reasonably timed Concord reenactment and parade. If I can find my photographs from last year I will post them here because it was a fun day. Paul Revere’s famous ride is also reenacted annually and its pretty cool because “Revere” passes right near our house in Somerville, stopping at Paul Revere Beverage for a brew. It’s actually a little underwhelming if you’ve been waiting a long time to finally see the single rider accompanied by police escort and a trailer with fresh horses. I have photos of the ride as well that I should dig up.
Update: Concord photo album. My favorite:
Patriots Day is also the date for the running of the Boston Marathon. This is a great event not just because it’s the oldest regularly scheduled marathon in America, but also because of the effect it has on the local people. Bostonians who are reserved and cranky the rest of the year become extremely outgoing and friendly while watching the race. While world class runners participate in the prestigious marathon, most people are there to watch the ordinary folk who run for charity, for self-esteem, or just for fun. Spectators line pretty much the entire marathon route shouting enthusiastic support for each and every runner who passes by. Runners have said that it’s near impossible to drop out of the Boston Marathon because spectators encouragingly push them back on the race course. Despite feeling a guilty obligation to support the runners in the mini-typhoon, I stayed at home this year for the marathon too.
It’s too bad Patriots Day is not a national holiday. It would be a great opportunity for Americans to learn about our history. It also would be a great break for American worker bees to avoid consumerism for a day and spend time with family, friends, and community. Patriots Day in April would contribute to a nice pattern of patriotic holidays every other month from February to September (Washington’s Birthday — Patriots Day — Memorial Day — Independence Day — Labor Day).
Here are some resources for Patriots Day:
- Mass Moments tells the story in Battle Begins on Lexington Common.
- Minuteman National Historical Park and Boston National Historical Park are open year round and well worth visiting.
- There’s also good visitor information available from the Chambers of Commerce in Lexington and Concord.
- You can follow Paul Revere from his house to the Old North Church to Buckman Tavern or parallel his ride on your own metal steed along the Minuteman Bikeway. Or just read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous if exaggerated poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”. And don’t forget about William Dawes.
- Come back to Boston along the Battle Road.
- Boston 1775 is an awesome blog dedicated to “History, analysis, and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in Massachusetts.”