Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)

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Evacuation Day
SiegeBoston.jpg
Engraving depicting the evacuation of Boston
Observed by

Suffolk County, Massachusetts and some state offices located there

Somerville, Massachusetts public schools
Celebrations

Commemoration ceremony at Dorchester Heights

Saint Patrick's Day festivities
Date March 17
Next time 17 March 2015 (2015-03-17)
Frequency annual
Related to Saint Patrick's Day

March 17 is Evacuation Day, a holiday observed in Suffolk County (which includes the cities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop)[1] and also by the public schools in Somerville, Massachusetts.[2] The holiday commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War. Schools and government offices (including some[3] Massachusetts state government offices located in Suffolk County) are closed. If March 17 falls on a weekend, schools and government offices are closed on the following Monday in observance. It is the same day as Saint Patrick's Day, a coincidence that played a role in the establishment of the holiday.[4]

Historical background[edit]

The 11-month siege of Boston ended when the Continental Army, under the command of George Washington, fortified Dorchester Heights in early March 1776 with cannons captured at Ticonderoga. British General William Howe, whose garrison and navy were threatened by these positions, was forced to decide between attack and retreat. To prevent what could have been a repeat of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Howe decided to retreat, withdrawing from Boston to Nova Scotia on March 17, 1776.

The British evacuation was Washington's first victory of the war. It was also a huge morale boost for the Thirteen Colonies, as the city where the rebellion began was the first to be liberated.

Establishment of the holiday[edit]

While Saint Patrick's Day parades have been held in Boston since 1876, Evacuation Day was not declared a holiday in the city until 1901,[5] amid interest in local history that also resulted in the construction of the Dorchester Heights Monument. The state made it a holiday in Suffolk County in 1938.[5] The large Irish population of Boston at that time played a role in the establishment of the holiday.[6] A 1941 law establishing the holiday in Suffolk County was signed in both black and green ink.[4]

A Revolutionary War reenactor at Boston's 2008 St. Patrick's Day parade

Observance activities[edit]

Evacuation Day activities in the areas that observe the holiday are limited. Most events of note, like the annual parade and politicians' breakfast in South Boston, are dominated by celebrations of Irish culture. The parade is officially designated the Saint Patrick's Day and Evacuation Day Parade.[citation needed] The Allied War Veterans of South Boston mark the day with a ceremony on Dorchester Heights.[7] Since 1992, the participation of gay and lesbian people in the parade has been disputed, and was the subject of the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court case Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston. Mayor Thomas Menino boycotted the parade every year he was in office, in protest of the exclusion of GLB marchers.[8]

Another local holiday observing an event in the American Revolutionary War is Bunker Hill Day. State workers outside Suffolk County are allowed to choose any two days off in lieu of celebrating Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day on the observance days. The two holidays are generally not observed by the general public or private businesses.[9] Some government services remain in operation, such as trash pickup in the City of Boston[10] and all state Registry of Motor Vehicle offices. The MBTA runs a normal schedule but, due to special events, prohibits bicycles on the subway.[11]

Moves to eliminate holiday[edit]

In 2010, the state legislature debated eliminating Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day as official holidays, citing the expense of giving state and local workers paid days off.[12] The state's FY2011 budget requires all state and municipal offices in Suffolk County be open on both days.[13]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]