Hi all! Let’s keep going on getting to know a bit more about how it is living in the USA (namely in Massachusetts) as an international PhD student. This involves as well getting to know better the American culture and the purpose behind some national (and state) holidays and customs. This was one of the parts I was excited about the most before coming here and I checked beforehand what were the public holidays in Massachusetts so that I could use them to become more entailed with American culture. Shall we find out how I celebrated the holidays up until now? The list will start from February 2017 for obvious reasons 😉
Washington’s Birthday – February 20th
This holiday, in honor of the first US President, George Washington, happens every year on the third Monday of February. I cannot say much about this holiday because I chose to work that day. Well, I was about to have an important meeting the day after, and it was snowing a lot. So, let’s pass to the next holiday.
St. Patrick’s Day – March 17th
Well, St. Patrick’s Day is not a state holiday but everybody celebrates it here in Boston since the city has a large community of Irish-Americans. March 17th was on a Friday, but there were so many events happening! The Boston Police Band played at the MIT Student Center with their bagpipes and drums and Anna’s Taqueria on campus prepared a special St. Patrick’s Day burrito that was delicious, with corned beef and cabbage. I got out of work earlier to go to a small concert in Quincy Market and drink some Guiness and green-tainted beer. Yes, the green beer tastes weird. There was also green beer at Muddy Charles, the MIT pub. We also participated in a free food event with Irish dancing at one of the MIT dorms, where we ate a dinner with delicious mashed potatoes and corned beef again. Finally, a good night of dancing and Guiness followed at The Druid, which seems to be the best Irish Pub in Cambridge, or someone told me so.
The following Sunday, March 19th, was the day of the traditional St. Patrick’s parade in South Boston, the typically Irish neighborhood. This was crazy full of people and trucks from different organizations, with plenty of madness. I listened to I’m Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys multiple times and it was awesome to finish the parade in the end of Broadway and sit on the beach, even though it was crazy cold. There was time anyway after this afternoon parade to go to two other Irish pubs around Central Square in Cambridge, The Asgard and The Field.
A Pulgarita’s Birthday – March 20th
Not a public holiday anywhere else than in my head haha. I went to work on my birthday, which was on a Monday this year. For my first birthday outside Portugal in 28 years, I still followed some traditions, like baking a cake to bring to work (my chocolate mousse cake was a success I think) and wearing a new shirt. It was a calm celebration with some dinner and latin dancing and having fun took a bit away the sadness of being away from home.
Patriots’ Day – April 17th
This holiday celebrates the date of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, which were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War in 1775. Besides Massachusetts, the holiday is celebrated in Wisconsin and Maine. The largest celebration of this day is the Boston Marathon, which I couldn’t miss! Unfortunately, in 2013, there were bombings near the Marathon finish in Boylston Street and the city adopted the motto “Boston Strong” to unite after such tragedy. Watching the Marathon near the finish line was a very exciting experience, seeing how the city comes together to support everyone. People shout to random runners they don’t know “Keep going! You can do this!”, military help people cross the line when they are cramping and in extreme pain, and there are so many people running for charities. We took the Portuguese flag in our office to cheer for Portuguese people running.
Memorial Day – May 29th
This was the only public holiday so far that I spent outside of Boston. I was in New York City at the time (worry not, there will be posts about my 3 times already in NYC!) and chose to attend the oldest parade, the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade. It was impressive to see how the neighborhood came together to honor the lifes of those who participated in the multiple wars fought by the United States of America with several cars and marching bands. The wars that are represented the most in these parades are World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War. I learned a bit about the Korean War (which was the least well known for me) through a small USA flag a former soldier gifted me and I had no idea that over 128,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in the war and that over 4000 were missing in action.
Pride Parades in Boston and NYC – June
I am definitely a supporter of the LGBTQ cause and I was really curious to attend the parades that would happen in June, the Pride Month. The Pride Parade in Boston was on June 10th and I happened to be in NYC at the date of their parade, June 25th. So, let’s recap a bit of the experience.
Boston Pride is one of the oldest parades in the United States, ocurring annually since 1970. Despite being way smaller than the NYC parade, and feeling more corporate, it is still a very colorful and dynamic event, with lots of live acts in a stage close to City Hall.
On the other hand, the New York City Parade is the largest in the world. It is in a completely different level. I watched the parade near the end of the route, in Stonewall, Greenwich Village. It is eye opening to see so many different cultures represented and the huge party like feeling, but not devoid of course of political messages and calls for action showing that there is still a long way to go for equality.
Portugal Day – June 10th
So, the celebration here in Boston and Cambridge was not exactly on the real Portugal Day. The celebration in the City Hall, where the Portuguese Flag was risen, ocurred on June 11th with a small food event afterwards. Oh, how I missed pastéis de nata (cream custards)! Then, there was a Portugal Day Parade in Sommerville and Cambridge on June 17th that I unfortunately could not attend due to being in a conference. However, there was a Portuguese “arraial” (block party) in East Cambridge and I went there for a bit.
Independence Day – July 4th
This is the ultimate American celebration! The tradition of celebrating 4th of July in Boston is very strong, with the free concert by Boston POPS at the Charles River Esplanade, which attracts over half a million people to the concert. However, we decided to attend the general rehearsal of the concert on July 3rd and it was beautiful. The Independence Day itself was very fun, with a free BBQ in one of the MIT Graduate Housing dorms, where we could have a lot of burgers, hot dogs and ice cream. We were also able to rent a sailing boat at the MIT Sailing Pavilion and see all the small yatchs and people sun tanning in their “Stars and Stripes” swimming suits. Finally, we walked along Memorial Drive in Cambridge and watched the over 10 minute fireworks after the concert finished. I really felt like in a movie, eating greasy food and sundaes from the food trucks and walking along the river waiting for the fabulous fireworks.
There are a few holidays to come yet in 2017 and I am so curious to spend Halloween and Thanksgiving here in particular. Where should I spend these holidays? Let me know!
What is your favorite US legal holiday! How do you celebrate them? Or what are the ones you’re the most curious about? Let me know! In the meantime, don’t forget to follow my journey around my PhD in the US in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to keep up to date!