Fast days were a common occurrence in the early days of the colonies. They were proclaimed to avert, or repent for, calamities such as plagues, wars, and crop failures. Fast days were often held before the spring planting (cf. Rogation Days). They were celebrated with sermons, abstinence from secular pursuits, and at least partial abstinence from eating. Cotton Mather wrote “We may not eat or drink so much, nor may we eat or drink so well, on such a day, as at another time.” New Hampshire’s first recorded proclamation of a fast day was in 1680 to “bless us with peace & prosperitie” and to “favor spring & seede time”. By the late 19th century, Fast Day had lost its significance as a religious holiday. It was abolished by Massachusetts in 1894 (being replaced with Patriots’ Day) and by Maine shortly after.
NH’s day lingered on the books until 1991. By then, the New Hampshire legislature wanted to honor the civil rights movement and activists such as Martin Luther King but did not want “..to create an additional paid holiday for state employees.” To make room for Civil Rights Day (Chapter 206, Laws of 1991), the legislature abolished Fast Day.