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Happy Patriots’ Day! (For Those Who Don’t Live in Mass. or Maine, it’s Just Monday)

April 19 (or the third Monday of the month) is a big holiday in Massachusetts. The kids have a day off school, the Red Sox play a morning start game at Fenway, and the Boston Marathon is run (though not this year or last). That’s because on April 19, 1775, the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was fired on Lexington Green (or Concord’s North Bridge, if you stick strictly to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s version of events), starting the American War of Independence.

Here are some fun facts about the holiday:

  • Maine is the only other state that recognizes Patriots’ Day with a day off school and commemorations. But Maine, which was part of Massachusetts until the Missouri Compromise of 1820, uses the singular possessive rather than the plural possessive: Patriot’s Day.
  • Connecticut recognizes Patriots’ Day, but it’s not a paid holiday, and no day off school. Wisconsin calls it a Public School Observance Day, meaning schools have to teach it in Social Studies. Florida simply “encourages” people to commemorate the day.
  • Patriot Day—in the non-possessive, attributive sense—is September 11 and is not a federal holiday.
  • Patriots’ Day was the brainchild of Massachusetts Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge, who in 1894 was looking to replace the wildly unpopular Fast Day. Fast Day was a state holiday for people to fast, go to church, and abstain from enjoyments in repentance for sin. I wonder why people didn’t like it?
  • The name “Patriots’ Day” was a compromise between the rival towns of Lexington and Concord, each of which wanted April 19 declared “Lexington Day” and “Concord Day,” respectively. So, why didn’t the Massachusetts State Legislature simply declare it “Lexington and Concord Day”? See below for the answer:
  • Because April 19 was also the anniversary of the Baltimore Riot, which saw the first blood drawn in the Civil War. On April 19, 1861, the 6th Massachusetts Militia was passing through Baltimore to protect Washington from secessionist Virginia. A Baltimore mob attacked the Massachusetts regiment, killing four and wounding 36. The militiamen killed at least 12 rioters. In 1894, the memory of this event was still fresh, and Governor Greenhalge declared April 19 “the anniversary of the birth of liberty and union.” In addition to lauding the Union cause, the name “Patriots’ Day” would also recognize the Battle of Metonomy, which was larger than either the battles of Lexington or Concord and occurred on the same day.
  • The Boston Marathon has been run on Patriots’ Day beginning in 1897. That’s because April 1896 saw the first modern Olympics, the largest sporting event ever held or viewed up to that time. The marquis event of this first Olympics was something called a “Marathon race” of about 25 miles, intended to replicate a mythical run of a Greek messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC. The race was so popular, Bostonians decided to hold their own version the following year and chose April 19 because it was already a holiday. The winner of the first Boston Marathon was Tom Brady, who went back in time and ran just to show he could do it.
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