By the rude bridge that arched the flood, 
   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, 
Here once the embattled farmers stood 
   And fired the shot heard round the world. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn” (1837)
Every third Monday of April since 1894, residents of Maine and Massachusetts commemorate this day, Patriots’ Day, as the start of the American Revolution. On the third Monday of April in 1775 – April 19 – British redcoats and American minutemen met and, suddenly, a battle erupted. Who fired the first shot, no one could tell. Either way, it set off a war that would last eight years and end with American independence.


Patriots’ Day emerged from a compromise between Concord and Lexington and among the other Massachusetts Commonwealth towns. It developed from Fast Day, a holiday observed by the Puritans who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century. This holiday, a spring counterpart of the autumn Thanksgiving, was set aside to give thanks to God and ask for His blessings.


Come the 1880s, fast-resistant Massachusetts folk had adapted Fast Day from a solemn day of spiritual observance to a joyous celebration of spring. To re-establish some sanctity to the day, Concord proposed that all of Massachusetts join in Concord Day, to remember April 19, 1775. Lexington, insulted by this idea, suggested a Lexington Day. An agreement between the two towns to create a Lexington and Concord Day did not satisfy all parties either.


Massachusetts Governor Frederic Greenhalge provided the answer: Why not have a Patriots’ Day that would commemorate not only the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but also the beginning of the Civil War? It would celebrate no particular town, but rather “Liberty and Union”.[1]


The celebration of Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts includes re-enactments of Paul Revere’s and William Dawes’ rides and the Battles of Lexington and Concord; parades in Boston, Lexington, and other towns; and the Boston Marathon. (The Boston Athletic Association began the Boston Marathon in 1897, inspired by the 1896 Olympics.[1])


To all of my fellow Bay Staters, Happy Patriots’ Day.
To all of my fellow Americans, viva la liberte.
To everyone else, have an amazing Monday.
The minuteman statue in Lexington (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
[1] The history of Patriots’ Day