New England

In 1492…

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more people wanting to abolish Columbus Day on the grounds that Christopher Columbus shouldn’t be honored with a holiday.  Some folks have suggested we honor our Native Americans with a holiday, with which I completely agree.  We have long ignored and subjugated the people who resided here before our forefathers came and created the US; to not honor Native Americans is a complete travesty.  But, please, let’s not create a “mash up” by replacing Columbus Day with a Native American holiday!  

There are all sorts of arguments that could be made to abolish Columbus Day, and all kinds of arguments promoting a Native American holiday, too.  But further confusing American history by switching the name of this weekend won’t solve the issues.  

Holidays never seem to end up to be about their original goals anyway.  Hallowe’en–with its roots in the Celtic harvest traditions–was renovated by the Christians to include All Souls Day and All Saints Day, a three day religious observance called Allhallowtide.  Years later, when wayward children of the Depression Era began vandalizing and creating havoc in American cities, Halloween was reworked into its present day “children’s holiday” which is far from any original meaning of the holiday.  
I could dissect just about every holiday we celebrate in a similar way, but who has the time?  The point is we have an established holiday system and the days mean different things to different people.  

Columbus Day has rarely been about the adventures (or misadventures) of Christopher Columbus to me.  No, for me Columbus Day weekend has always been about enjoying the lovely early days of Autumn in New England, before the leaves fell.  A little break to enjoy the most beautiful time in New England!  A time to visit the Topsfield Fair–the oldest, continuously running state fair in America–or to be a “leaf peeper” on one of NE’s back roads.  It’s picking pumpkins and eating cider donuts time.  Catching an outdoor football game and hanging up Autumn decorations.  

The closest I ever came to honoring Columbus on this weekend was in childhood when my father, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, had us handing out Tootsie Rolls for donations on a cause I no longer remember.  The cause was probably some worthy Catholic one, but I only remember those delicious chocolately candies, in the EXTRA large size, which we bought by the case after the weekend collection was over.  Decades later, every time I see a Tootsie Roll, I think of my dad with great fondness and love.  

So, please, don’t send me any more petitions about how terrible I am to want to keep Columbus Day.  Don’t “tsk tsk” me for wanting to hold on to my childhood memories or our true New England traditions.  Let’s find another way of honoring the Native Americans who, under our European bravado, suffered greatly.  I’ll lend my signature and my voice to THAT cause, for sure…just not at the expense of my wonderful childhood memories.