Today is Patriots’ Day. It is a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775.
The holiday was originally celebrated on April 19, the actual anniversary of the battles. Since 1969, it has been observed on the third Monday in April, providing a three-day long weekend in Massachusetts and in Maine, which until the mid-19th century was part of Massachusetts. The day also is the first day of a vacation week for public schools in both states. The day is a public school observance day in Wisconsin. Florida law also encourages people to celebrate it, though it is not treated as a public holiday.
We routinely hear much about the Boston Marathon, the Red Sox early game and activities at Lexington and Concord, but little is heard or seen about what takes place in Maine.
Why the date is celebrated is clear enough – as Maine was at that time part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820, that’s not why the two states are the only ones with a holiday on the third Monday in April. Patriot’s Day didn’t become a state holiday in Maine until 1907, when legislators substituted it for Fast Day, a day of atonement that dated to the 17th century. Maine was following in the footsteps of Massachusetts, which replaced Fast Day with Patriots’ Day in 1894.
Beyond that historical connection, little was found connecting the State to today’s holiday.
In a recent column in the Kennebec Journal, Maureen Milliken wrote in entertaining fashion of the need to give “Patriot’s Day its due in Maine”
Portland holds a Patriot’s Day 5-mile race, she writes…It IS the oldest road race in Maine, according to all sources. Up until 2009, it was run on the Monday holiday competing for spectator interest with the televised Boston Marathon. Now it is run on the Sunday of Patriot’s Day weekend (except last year, when that Sunday was Easter).
Ogunquit has a weekend-long celebration, adds Milliken, that probably has to do more with spring arriving and it being a long holiday weekend and seasonal businesses opening for tourist season than us throwing off the shackles of the crown.
So despite living in the cradle of the Revolutionary War, we don’t spend much time “through all our history, to the last” wakening and listening to hear, as Longfellow predicted, “The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed and the midnight message of Paul Revere.”
Her column, it appears, was a modern-day call to action.Share