On Monday, April 16, the state of Massachusetts will shut down its schools and offices. While many of us simply appreciate the day off, there is a reason behind our marathon-watching and lounging around. Patriots’ Day is a holiday celebrated only in Maine and Massachusetts (although Maine’s punctuation implies only one Patriot), always on the third Monday of April.
The holiday comes from the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. In 1775, the American colonists began their first battle with the British army in a town only 20 minutes away from Tufts. In his poem “Concord Hymn,” Ralph Waldo Emerson famously described the first shot of the battle as “the shot heard round the world.” This battle marked the start of the Revolutionary War. While the battle was insignificant on a gains and casualties level, it showed the British that the Americans were ready for war. The British had oppressed the colonists for far too long and it was time to start a revolution.
To celebrate, Massachusetts holds the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day. The marathon has been run every Patriots’ Day since 1897 and is the world’s oldest annual marathon competition. The marathon is the most widely watched sporting event in New England. The marathon has always been on or around Patriots’ Day because the founders wanted to link the American struggles for liberty with the Athenian struggles for liberty.
Now, Patriots’ Day is tinged with remembrance. In 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother bombed the Boston Marathon, leaving three dead and over 200 injured. The subsequent chase to find the bombing suspects left the greater Boston area in turmoil until eventually Dzhokhar was captured and sentenced to death. The tragedy reverberated throughout the nation and beyond: a new kind of “shot heard round the world.” Instead of sparking revolution, the bombing stirred conversation around immigration, the death penalty and even the protection of privacy, due to the fact that suspects were caught with high power surveillance cameras. While these political questions still linger in Massachusetts politics, the city has also been brought together by the tragedy. The “Boston Strong” slogan came out of this horrible event and the city has used it to grow even stronger in unity. Boston is known for its resilience, and its unity after this tragedy proved it.
In addition to the marathon, the Boston Red Sox have played in Fenway every Patriots’ Day since 1959. Evidently, the state really loves Patriots’ Day. As the home of the revolution and American independence, it’s only right that Massachusetts goes big on Patriots’ Day. The historic Boston Marathon brings everyone together, and Boston pride is never stronger than during a Red Sox game.
Whether you watch the marathon, the Red Sox game, or lounge around with the “Patriots Day” movie (which I do recommend), it’ll be a good day to live in Massachusetts.