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What is Patriots' Day?

By A. B. Kelsey
Updated May 17, 2024
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Patriots' Day is a civic holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state of Maine, which was originally a part of Massachusetts. It was created to pay homage to the military skirmishes which marked the turning point in the long struggle for independence between the American Colonies and England. Traditionally, Patriots' Day was celebrated on the 19th of April, in honor of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, fought on this date in 1775. In recent years, however, Patriots' Day has been observed on the third Monday of every April, thereby providing the residents with a three-day holiday weekend.

History books relate that the night of 18 April 1775, British General Thomas Gage decided to finally bring the upstart colonists back under British control. He ordered his men to destroy the Patriots' war supplies and to arrest and hide key members of the Patriot rebellion. Although the general’s orders were supposed to be followed using the utmost secrecy, Dr. Joseph Warren was told of the nefarious plans and sent Paul Revere to forewarn the other soldiers.

As immortalized in Longfellow’s poem, The Midnight Ride , Paul Revere then rode on horseback from Boston to Lexington alerting the Minutemen to the fact that the British were going to attack at dawn. The English soldiers arrived in Lexington early the next morning, the “shot heard round the world" was fired, and the American Revolution officially began. The American Revolution finally ended in Yorktown on 19 October 1781, when Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington. A formal treaty officially ending the war was signed in 1783.

Patriots' Day is a school holiday for many of the public colleges and universities in the area and in Wisconsin, such as MIT, Northeastern University, the University of Massachusetts, Babson College, Bentley College, and the Massachusetts College of Art. Occasionally Tax Day falls on the same date as Patriots' Day, causing the tax deadline to be extended by a day for the lucky residents of Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. This is because the IRS processing center for these areas is located in Andover, Massachusetts.

In addition to numerous reenactments, the Boston Marathon is held annually on Patriots' Day, which is why the holiday is also known as Marathon Monday. The Boston Red Sox also have a tradition of playing a home game on this date, starting the game at the same time as the Boston Marathon. It is a popular custom for fans leaving the game to gather in Kenmore Square and cheer on the runners jogging through the area.

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Discussion Comments
By anon262506 — On Apr 20, 2012

I created Patriot's Day for the State of Idaho. The Resolution #46 of the Idaho Legislature created Patriot's Day in Idaho in 2006, and every year, we have a commemoration on the steps of the Capitol.

Terry S., the Ben Franklin Foundation

By anon11706 — On Apr 21, 2008

I have heard differing claims about which states celebrate Patriot's Day. Of course, Massachusetts and Maine, but I also read that Tennessee made it officially this year (2008). On the web site of the Governor of Idaho, I read that Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, and as of 2007, Idaho, also celebrate Patriots' Day, though some celebrate it on April 19th, and others on 3rd Monday in April. Could you clarify this?

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