A running history of Patriot’s Day

Long-time Extension School instructor and alumnus Robert J. Allison, ALB ’87, PhD ’92, professor and chair of history at Suffolk University, shares a swift history on the origins and evolution of Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts. For those who prefer the audio-video version to the text below, Allison delivers his short, 7-minute history lesson here

As it was in the beginning

The Puritans left behind two holidays. They set aside a day in the fall to give thanks to God for the blessings of the year and for not exercising his judgment on them. They set aside a day in the spring for fasting and prayer, imploring God’s aid in the coming year, atoning for their sins, and imploring God not to exercise his judgment on them.

Both holidays persisted well into the nineteenth century as Thanksgiving, in November, and Fast Day, in April, became part of the official calendar. Thanksgiving was given a considerable boost during the Civil War when President Lincoln revived the custom, which Presidents Washington and Adams had begun, of proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving. After the war, the national day of Thanksgiving became a time to spend with family and to give thanks for the blessings of life.

Fast Day, always in April, had a tougher time in a more secular age. We prefer counting our blessings to reflecting on our sins. By the 1880s, Massachusetts citizens were not spending Fast Day reflecting on their sins, but were spending what was often the first nice day of the year as a holiday—not a holy day—outdoors, with boat and  bicycle races, and a noticeable amount of public drinking. Something needed to be done. (more…)

April 16, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Faculty, Holiday, In the news. Leave a comment.

School’s (not) out for summer

Post by Liz M.

Although Harvard classes are on spring break this week, it might as well be summer in Cambridge. Harvard Square has been abuzz lately as street performers, musicians, and cafe dwellers take advantage of some unseasonably warm temperatures to resume their outdoor perches.

And with the spring semester at the mid-point, why not look towards your summer course options? I’ve poured over Harvard Summer School’s offerings to share a few highlights among the 300 courses. (more…)

March 14, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Courses. 4 comments.

10 faculty books that make great gifts

by Liz M.

’Tis the season. And if you’re like me, you’ll be shopping up until the moment before your holiday gathering. To help us all in our quest, I’ve assembled a list of 10 books by current and past faculty that are suitable for any readers on your list, be they young or old, history buffs or mystery fans.

1. A Short History of Cape Cod by Robert Allison

The title tells all in this unassuming work, the third in a series of concise historical nonfiction by Allison. Four short stories, supplemented by more than 100 photographs, tell the 400-year story of one of America’s most beloved summer vacation destinations. An easy read for the beach yet curiously insightful enough for any historian, it’s sure to be a treasured gift for anyone who spent their summers among the dunes of Old Cape Cod.

2. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children: A Novel by Sarah Braunstein The Sweet Relief of Missing Children by Sarah Braunstein

A suspenseful novel that moves through time and explores the power of running away, the desire for reinvention, and the transcendence of our human experience. With this debut, Braunstein was named one of “5 Under 35” fiction writers by the National Book Foundation in 2011. More importantly, if Oprah recommended the book, you know it’s a hit.


December 14, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Community, Faculty, Holiday. 3 comments.