Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Columbus Day - Really

Updated from 2009
My paragraphs were longer, then.

Today, October 12, is Columbus Day. Not Amerigo Vespucci Day. Not Leif Ericson Day. Columbus Day. It was certainly not Indigenous People's Day... unless you want to celebrate the beginning of the end.

But, I digress.  Today is Columbus Day. Chris and his fleet landed at a place he named San Salvador on October 12, 1492. Of course, that was according to the Julian Calendar. In 1582, a papal bull (and what an image that conjures in the brain) restructured the concept of the leap year and named the new calendar after the Pope himself. Suddenly, La Nina and La Pinta and La Santa Maria had landed 9 days later, on October 21st, Gregorian time. Adding 3 days every 4 centuries doesn't seem like a big difference, but try telling that to Columbus. Someone must have agreed with me on this, since we celebrate his arrival on the Julian date. I love it when things that shouldn't change don't change.

And that's why I'm smiling about today being Columbus Day. Because, in actuality, Columbus Day is now celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October, regardless of the date. That's just wrong. Totally and completely unacceptable. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, George Washington was born on February 22nd. Neither of them was born on the 3rd Monday in February... or at least not every year on the 3rd Monday in February. Holiday-declarers need to get with the program. Certain things should not be messed with.

But today is October 12th. And it's Columbus Day. And all is right with the world.

I've always like Columbus Day, because it's not a birthday party. It's the celebration of an event. Being born isn't anything to congratulate the infant about. If we had pictures of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Washington there would be reason to say "Nicely Done, Ma'am". The babies really didn't do much at all. Columbus, on the other hand, sailed across the flat world (although I've recently learned that the whole flat earth thing is an 18th century allusion taken much too seriously by American text book writers) to find a faster route to India's spices. Though his math was a little shaky, and he really wasn't in India at all, he found the Bahamas (which had been doing very nicely without him except for just a little bit of internecine warfare) and laid the groundwork for the casinos at Atlantis.

You can avoid the political controversy over the whole celebration because, really, if you stop to think about it, there was no way that all of Europe was going to stay on their side of the pond forever.  Globalization was bound to happen.  Would the indigenous peoples have been better off remaining un-found?  It's a moot point. The world is and was and always will be a series of inter-dependent spheres. It's only the access points which change. Need an example? Go to Erie, Pennsylvania and see the results of progress.

And so, I avoid the political and enjoy the celebration.

No one expects you to be at her house for dinner on Columbus Day. You don't have to eat special foods or dress in any particular color. You might not have to work (it's a Federal Holiday) and there's probably a raft of politicians marching down the main street of the nearest major metropolis.
Columbus Day is a holiday without structure, without musts, shoulds or oughts. It is a break from school when you can go apple picking or clothes shopping or jump in the leaves. You can hike or take the kids to a museum or just clean your closets, all while enjoying an official holiday.

Thanks, Chris.

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