POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

They’re Not Just “Hack Holidays

by David Trumbull - March 12, 2010

The two Suffolk County holidays, Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day—often ridiculed as “hack holidays” because employees of the Commonwealth get them off with pay, while the rest of us work—have been in the news again lately, with a hearing earlier this month on a proposal to nix both.

Evacuation DaySt. Patrick's Day, a coincidence not lost on the large Irish-American population of Boston. In fact, the entire month of March is, by statute, an observance of Irish-American heritage.

Bunker Hill Day—June 17—is a doubly dubious observance. First, as every Bostonian can tell you, the battle was on Breed’s Hill, not Bunker Hill. Secondly, we lost! One does not customarily celebrate one’s defeats, but in the case of Breed’s/Bunker Hill, it is understandable, for it marked the first American resistance that put in question British victory in the War. Surveying the heavy Red Coat losses British General Sir Henry Clinton said, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.” General Clinton was paraphrasing the Greek general Pyrrhus who, according to the ancient writer Plutarch, won battles but at such high cost that he nearly ruined himself.

In Boston, America’s passion for Independence is seen, touched, heard, and smelt in our Old State House, the Old South Meeting House, in the steeple of Christ Church in the North End, and in scores of other sites along our Freedom Trail. Laugh and call them “hack holidays,” but don’t forget the individual men and women who struggled for freedom, for that is why we set aside special days of remembrance and observance.

They are not days off from work, but a couple more observances this month deserve note. March 29th is Vietnam Veterans Day and on the 27th we observe the anniversary of the founding of the Italian American War Veterans of the United States. On that date the governor, in accordance with the law, will issue a proclamation

In recognition of the distinguished patriotic services rendered by the Italian American War Veterans of the United States, and recommending that the day be observed by the people in the display of the flag and by appropriate exercises in the public schools and elsewhere, commemorative of the services and sacrifices of the men of Italian ancestry who fought in defense of the United States.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]