Patriots' Day, a unique Massachusetts State holiday, honors the memory and meaning of the first battle of the American Revolution, fought on April 19, 1775.
We officially observe the Patriots' Day holiday on the 3rd Monday in April, also the day of the Boston Marathon.
However, celebrations, parades, reenactments, and other activities unfold throughout the entire weekend, as well as other times throughout April.
The most dramatic reenactments include Paul Revere's midnight ride from Boston across the countryside, battles on Lexington Green, and Old North Bridge in Concord.
Keep in mind - these are essentially local events, carried out each year out of a commitment to keeping history alive and paying tribute to those who fought for liberty almost 250 years ago. You may be surprised by how many locals attend - and how few tourists you'll see.
If you're visiting Boston during April, don't miss attending at least one of these special reenactments. There's nothing else like them anywhere else in the world - because Boston and its surrounding towns and countryside is where the American Revolution began.
You'll see 2 major types of reenactments:
In addition, a number of demonstrations show you aspects of the Colonial period. For example, hundreds of Colonial and British reenactors stage the"Bloody Angle Tactical Demonstration at Hartwell Tavern" along a half-mile stretch of Battle Road in Lincoln.
You'll get to see all the different types of muskets and other weapons in use, learn about their accuracy at 100 feet ("inaccurate" would be a better description), and get a sense of what an actual battle might really have been like.
The day-long demonstrations and reenactments at Hartwell Tavern on the Saturday before Patriots' Day is particularly interesting.
The reenactors - which include men, women, and children of all ages - stay in character of the person they represent. They share lots of information about their daily lives, Colonial America, and their feelings about the British and their taxes.
If you want to learn about daily life in Colonial Boston and the Massachusetts Bay State Colony - for example, the average family had 11 children - this is the perfect place to do it.
A variety of reenactor groups, with names like "First Foot Guards," "Lexington Minutemen and Lexington Training Band," "His Majesty's Tenth Regiment of Foot," "Colonel Bailey's Second Massachusetts Regiment," "Lincoln Minutemen," and "Concord Independent Battery" participate.
Many of these groups are local, while some come from other New England states, and even farther away. In general, members share a keen interest in Colonial and Revolutionary War history, and a commitment to preserving history through authenticity.
Although some of these groups have been active for a long time, many arose in the 1960s, when New England towns revived their long-dormant local militias and minute companies in preparation for the country's Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. They began by staging mock battles, and then became fascinated by the history.
Have you noticed the uniforms and other clothing worn by the Reenactors in the photos?
As one explained, "These are 'real' Colonial clothes, not 'costumes.' If you want your clothes to look right and fit right, you have to make them yourself . . . I made my own, by hand. I finally even learned how to do buttonholes - must have made 100 or more before I got it right. The trick is to use silk thread."
With so much going on, how do you decide what to see?
Quite frankly, whatever you see will be a fascinating glimpse of an earlier time - but here are my recommendations (check the Patriots' Day schedule for specific details and April Calendar for general dates):
Boston (North End events):
North End events: Green and Orange Lines/North Station (Commuter Rail stops here also) or to Haymarket; 8-10 minute walk to Paul Revere's House
Lexington/Lincoln/Concord events: By car - take Mass Pike or Storrow Drive/Route 16/Route 2 out of Boston to Route 128 North; for Lexington, take Route 2A East, and for Lincoln/Concord, take Route 2A West; Lexington and Concord have municipal parking lots near the town center. For Minute Man Park (Lincoln), you'll find signs along Route 2A directing you to parking lots.