It’s a happy day here at Tuckerman headquarters as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, two of our favorite holidays. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Evacuation Day? Surely not!
St. Patrick’s Day is well known of course, to say nothing of New England’s long affiliation with Ireland. Though only recognized as an official holiday in Boston and Savannah, Georgia, a large number of American cities celebrate March 17th in style, many of which had early connections to the Irish diaspora. Parades, Guinness, and green-dyed bodies of water are sure signs of a modern St. Patrick’s day celebration in a city near you.
But how did this green-tinged festival begin? And how did Bostonians manage to finagle the day off with a bit of legislative sleight-of-hand? That’s the story of Evacuation Day, a most interesting one indeed.
First, a little history. The first St. Patrick’s day was organized on March 17th, 1737 by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, almost forty years before the American revolution. Though started in Boston, similar celebrations soon arose in the major urban hubs of New York and Philadelphia. By the late 1800’s a host of other major municipalities had some organized form of parade to recognize the Irish roots of their citizenry. While much of the celebration was done in fine style and enjoyed by Irish and non-Irish alike, most people returned to work as the day was not recognized as an official holiday.
So how did Boston ensure a day off?
In 1941, Massachusetts GovernorLeverett Saltonstall signed a bill declaring March 17th a holiday in Suffolk county (where Boston is located), ostensibly for the purposes of celebrating “Evacuation Day”, a day to commemorate the evacuation of the city by the British at the hands of the Continental Army under General George Washington in 1776. As the first meaningful victory against the British in the war of independence, who could argue with celebrating such a cause? And perhaps as important, that evacuation occurred on the same March 17th date as the much beloved St. Patrick’s day parade.
Indeed a closer inspection of the actual holiday bill suggests an alternative motive. Though no mention of St. Patrick or of “Evacuation Day” appear in the legislation itself, Governor Saltonstall left a telltale clue. His signature on the bill was signed in an unmistakable green ink.
Coincidence? Perhaps, though given the city’s history and love affair with all things Irish, we suspect not. And frankly, given the importance of the revolution, we think both are well worth celebrating.
Sowherever you are and whether you are celebrating the evacuation of the British or a small island with a huge heart, we hope you’re enjoying it.Sláinte!