Monday, April 17, 2006

St. Evacuation, the Patriot, Day

If it's spring, it must be time for silly Boston holidays. Visitors are alternately surprised and amused by our Evacuation Day and Patriot's Day official goof-off occasions.

Parents have to dicker or argue over who has to take the kid to work or stay home. The summer break becomes that much farther away for kids. The three-month summers that Boomer school kids knew have become two here with quirky and very inconvenient prolonged winter and spring real and imagined holidays. Families "choose" to take their vacations to coincide with 11-day spring breaks where one or no school days are really justified. Teachers lose that amount of income that would otherwise be part of their summer jobs.

Evacuation Day here has nothing to do with dietary fiber. Each March 17th, Boston and its Suffolk County shutter schools and businesses for the day. Historically versed intellectual locals revel in the day in 1776 that the British forces left Beantown. They didn't get around to remembering this until 1941. It surely is merely coincidence that the holiday came during the rise of Irish Americans here in politics and likewise, it must be an accident that this coincides with St. Patrick's Day.

Bars and liquor stores do not observe the holiday other than with the ritual ringing of cash registers.

Patriot's Day is another Revolutionary allusion, with a bit more justification. It commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord (or rather the Battle of Lexington and the summary surrender of Concord). For those who show up on Lexington green -- mostly middle-school history teachers and their coerced students -- it's fun and educational. There'll be a loud-mouth on horseback recalling the Revere/Dawes warning ride, and of course, musket-carrying folk in itchy uniforms reenacting the battles.

Hundreds of thousands flock to help celebrate this state holiday (since 1969). Although oddly enough, if you'd ask them, they hide their love of history and patriotism by saying they are there to watch or run in the Boston Marathon. Such humility...

On April 19th, 1776, although the militia heavily outnumbered the British regulars, the colonists lost more to wounds and death. The locals surrendered Concord without a fight, but eventually the Brits realized they were too few and chickened out.

Pretty or ugly, a win is a win, right?

We also have such oddments as Bunker Hill Day, which celebrates Revolutionary heroics of locals as neighboring Breed's Hill. Huh?

The colonists lost, but it demoralized the Brits, many of whose officers died.

For the real war, the vast majority of action took place elsewhere. Just as Boston was never considered important enough to be the national capital -- that would be New York, Philadelphia and Washington -- the decisive battles in the Revolutionary War were in colonies like New Jersey and Virginia and South Carolina. We celebrate what we have -- a lot of rabble rousers like the Adams boys, the Boston Tea Party, and the first real battle.

Boston's love of commemoration does not stop with such holidays. You'd think that every dead soldier from WWI has his own square. We need to insert a different rant here. Bostonians are wont to call every intersection a square. Now Savannah knows what a square is -- a rectangular park with majestic oaks, a hero statue, a fountain and benches interrupts traffic, which drives around it to continue. That's a square!


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