Maryland has a unique history that stretches from the early 1600s to the present. Maryland Day gives residents the opportunity to celebrate this history in many unique ways from art exhibits to interactive exhibits showcasing various eras in Maryland history.
What Is Maryland Day?
To put it simply, Maryland Day is a celebration of all things Maryland, including its historic sites, museums and other venues. Performing arts centers perform plays and stage other events that provide Marylanders with a glimpse of their rich heritage. For Marylanders, Maryland Day gives them the opportunities to celebrate the contributions Marylanders have made to the state and to the nation as a whole.
When Do We Celebrate Maryland Day?
The official day of celebration is March 25th. However, events are usually celebrated the weekend after the 25th. Sometimes, this can mean a three day celebration of all things Maryland if the 25th lands on a Friday. It is only celebrated in Maryland at various locations, primarily in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and St. Mary’s County.
The History of Maryland Day
Maryland Day celebrates the landing of the first European settlers in the Providence of Maryland on March 25, 1634. The landing coincides with a Roman Catholic feast known as the Feast of the Annunciation or Feast of Mary, Mother of Jesus.
The Roman Catholics lead by Jesuit Father Andrew White celebrated Mass with Thanksgiving for their safe arrival at what was then known as Blackstone Island. It was eventually called St. Clement’s Island to honor Pope Clement I. This island was where the first Roman Catholic Mass was celebrated in America. A large cross was erected to mark the border between Maryland and Virginia.
The holiday was officially celebrated in 1903 when the state board of education decided to increase awareness of Maryland history. The idea caught on with various parades and commemorative events creating a desire for all Marylanders to learn more about their history. The state legislature, realizing the importance of teaching and remembering Maryland history authorized the acceptance of Maryland Day as a legal holiday in Maryland in 1916. It was at that time that March 25th was set as the official day of celebration.
An annual ceremony held at the base of the 1908 statue of Cecillius Calvert honors Calvert’s contribution to the establishment of the state. Calvert was the 2nd baron Baltimore after the title was passed onto him by his father George. Calvert was instrumental in securing the land grant from Charles I, the King of England.
St. Mary’s City
Historic St. Mary’s City in St. Mary’s county played a significant part in Maryland Day celebrations. St. Mary’s was where the first colonial government was held and its first capitol building was erected. As many Marylanders know, the first settlement was named for the king’s wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. Today, you can visit Historic St. Mary’s City and explore 17th century Maryland for yourself. There are many restored colonial buildings on the premises. They offer many opportunities to explore history and archaeology up close and personal.
The many programs and tours that St. Mary’s City offers help visitors understand the culture and experiences of ordinary people who lived and loved in the 1700s. The Maryland Dove, a recreation of one of the settler ships, is on display for exploration. Visitors to St. Mary’s also have opportunities to learn more about the history of the settlers in early Maryland. A lecture series and living history programs round out the festivities.
Maryland Day Celebrations
There are no set customs that are specifically linked to Maryland Day. Instead, the day has been set aside to celebrate the various cultures that Maryland represents. In some of the older universities like the University of Maryland, with its 150 year history, the university holds an open house every Maryland Day. They showcase the accomplishments in Maryland and provide various activities for kids of all ages.
In the past, universities have held parades that showcased Maryland’s rich cultural heritage. Today, universities mainly focus on providing informative lectures and other interactive activities. University of Maryland’s annual tradition of the Red and White scrimmage game sometimes falls on Maryland Day and is a featured event.
The Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse is where the longest lasting tradition attached to this holiday occurs every March 25th. The simple ceremony honors the legacy that Calvert created and highlights a person who exemplifies the character and qualities of a true Marylander. It starts outside at the foot of the Calvert statue at the steps of the west front of the courthouse. The ceremony then reconvenes in one of the courtrooms that are decked out for the occasion.
One of the most time honored traditions for Maryland Day is the ceremony of the flags which represent the 23 counties in Maryland and Baltimore City. The Cross Bottony Award is then presented to the person who has contributed the most to the interpretation and preservation of Maryland history. Some notable awardees have gone on to support the efforts of thousands to preserve and protect Maryland’s history for future generations.
Maryland Day is a day set aside to explore the various cultures that make up Maryland. It is also a day where people can share ideas about the environment. Interactive exhibits are just a part of what makes this day unique and noteworthy. For every Maryland Day is different and unique in its offerings. History is respected here. Historic preservation efforts are also honored for the tireless archaeologist who digs up interesting artifacts to the building conservationist who saves old buildings for future generations.
Maryland has a lot to offer for tourists and residents. Maryland Day showcases all these aspects of Maryland from past living history to present lively cultural experiences. With over 20 sites and 400 events featuring nautical displays, environmental displays and other interesting tidbits, Marylanders and other visitors can get a real sense of Maryland’s rich history.