Well, it’s Patriots Day, a holiday which I have always very much enjoyed.
You want to know why?
- Patriots’ Day is ours and ours alone. Yes, it’s a public holiday in Maine – and, weirdly, Wisconsin has some school-based observance around it – but it’s 99.9999% ours. (Maine, in the the way back, used to be part of Massachusetts, so there.) Ours, gloriously, ours - which as the world, let alone the country becomes more boringly homogenized, is all to the good. You might even say it’s wicked pissah!
- It means spring. As only people who dwell in northern climes can appreciate, spring getting sprung is a big deal. (Given the longitude of Wisconsin, this may be the reason they’ve decided to give this day a go.) Sure, it can be in the 40’s and sleeting, but as often as not, the weather is spring-like: magnolias in bloom, daffodils abounding, and forsythia starting to blossom.
- The Swanboats are back. The Boston Public Garden is my front yard. Bonus points that it’s one of the most beautiful public parks in the United States, and, come spring, the swanboats are there. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, swanboats are pedal-powered and glide around the lagoon throughout the spring and summer. I haven’t actually been on a swanboat in maybe ten years, but I like the idea of them just being there. Maybe now that spring is sprung, I’ll take a ride. One of these days.
- The boys are back, too. Given that this is Boston, this can only mean one thing: the Red Sox are back in town. They have to be back. After all, it’s Patriots’ Day, which means home game. And the game starts at the odd little hour of 11 a.m. The Marathon used to be timed so that the game ended just about the same time that the lead runners were pumping through Kenmore Square, just outside of Fenway Park. Alas, somewhere along the line it was decided that 35,000 fans hitting the streets the same time the runners do wasn’t a good idea. It worked before the Boston Marathon became the biggy-big deal it’s become, but no more. Sigh! It’s still fun to get watch the Patriots’ Day game at Fenway. Even when – as is the early-going case this year – the boys aren’t exactly covering themselves with glory.
- The Boston Marathon is being run. And it’s also being watched. (Safe bet: lots more watchers than runners.) As you can imagine, the race has taken on a new meaning this year, what with the first anniversary of the Marathon Bombings having just passed. With luck, over the years, the Marathon will return to something that more closely resembles what it has always been: a race that brings a lot of elite runners to Boston, but a race that’s also run by people you know (friends, colleagues, neighbors, folks from the gym… ) What’s fun about the Boston Marathon is that everybody knows someone who’s running. And everybody knows someone who’s watching along the way. And everybody knows someone standing near the finish line. Which is one reason why last year’s events shook this city to core. This was personal.
- It’s the start of school vacation. This may be a mixed blessing for parents, but as a former vacationing school kid, this was the very best vacation week of the whole, wide school year. Christmas week was Christmas week, but there was way too much going on. Including church, as both Christmas and New Year’s Day were holy days of obligation, which meant Mass. Christmas Mass at least had carols going for it. New Year’s Day*: bor-ing. February vacation week was fine, but there was a pretty good bet that there’d be at least one day during the week when you were stuck inside because of a blizzard. Plus, most of the time it was smack dab in the middle of Lent, so there was always pressure to sacrifice something fun like desert, or get up out of bed to go to completely optional daily Mass. But April vacation week. Bliss!
- Patriots’ Day brings with it no obligations whatsoever. Let’s face it, most holidays haul an awful lot of baggage along with them. Even if you don’t have any of the church-y things hanging over you, there are presents to buy, food to cook, decorations to put up, places to go, stuff to do. Not Patriots’ Day. Nada. Zip. Zilch by way of obligatory. You can watch the ballgame. Or not. Watch the Marathon. Or not. Watch the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Or not. Bliss!
- This was the day when the shot heard round the world was fired. And we – i.e., New Englanders – were there. Okay, in real life this was on April 19th, which is when Patriots’ Day used to be celebrated. But then a light bulb went off and somebody up there realized that a three-day weekend occasionally trumps historic accuracy. Anyway, speaking of the shot heard round the world, I defy anyone to go out to Concord Bridge and not be moved to think about where those embattled farmers standing there firing that shot. (Well, mostly you get to think about it because Emerson’s poem, Concord Hymn is carved in granite and standing, unembattled, staring you right in the face.
- If you don’t particularly care about baseball or marathoning, there’s a reenactment of the Battle of Lexington going on. Just down the road from Concord Bridge is Lexington Green where, every year, the Battle of Lexington Green is reenacted. I’ve been to this a couple of times and, other than the fact that you have to get up at the crack of dawn to see it, it’s great fun. The best year for it was, of course, 1975, the battle’s bicentennial. That year, my cousin Barbara had what had to be one of the largest pajama parties ever: every inch of her house in Lexington was covered with someone in a sleeping bag. The evening before, we all ate genuine colonial fare: spaghetti and meatballs. Which fortified us all to get up at 5 a.m. and leg it over to Lexington Green. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the gunpowder coming out of a blunderbuss.
I suppose I should come up with a tenth reason here, which seems to be the magic list number. But the beauty of Patriots’ Day, and why it rules, is that there really aren’t any rules.
Patriots’ Day: What’s not to like?
*Somehow I remembered this as the Feast of the Incarnation, but I looked it up and found that January 1st celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Oh, woe is lapsed me.