Celebrating Columbus Day

by Edward Small

I’m sure many of you have been thinking about how tospend this year’s Columbus Day ever since you read the beginning of thissentence and first realized that Columbus Day was coming up almost immediatelyand you forgot—right? This can be an extremely difficult task, as unlike someof America’s other major holidays—Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, Christmas,and Make Your Child Do Your Work Day, etc.—there is some controversy over howone should properly celebrate what Columbus was once thought to have done.

It wasn’t always thisway. Back in 1934, when Columbus Day was first established, people across thecountry spent the day however they pleased: wearing suits made of pasta,carving Columbus-o’-lanterns, or, most commonly, trying to find a job. Therewas a Depression going on, after all. But celebrating has become trickier overthe last couple of decades, thanks to some new and startling discoveries thatwere also not of America. These include:

     -Columbus did not,technically, or in any other way, actually, discover America.
     -Once Columbus got to America, he didnot treat those who happened to be already here very nicely.
     -Near the end of the voyage of not discovering America, one of Columbus’sailors called dibs on the last orange, and even though Columbus heard him say this, he ate itanyway. Columbussaid why, in Italian: “Perche sono elcapitano e posso,” or something like that, meaning “Because I am thecaptain and I can.”
     -It was impossible for Columbus to say the word “seamen” withoutgiggling.  Even though he said “marinai,” he knew what the Englishtranslation was.
     -The Nina, the Pinta andthe Santa Mariaall tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Such findings have caused many people to seriously questionwhether or not Columbus Day should remain a national holiday. They usuallyquiet down once we remind them that getting rid of it would cost everyone athree-day weekend, but there is a movement afoot to keep your fingers crossedduring the whole Monday off. Other questions remain:  Did Columbus start his voyage in 1492 becausehe knew it rhymed with “ocean blue”  inEnglish, or was it just a coincidence? Did he purposely name his ships in sucha way that they would have essentially the same scansion as Atchison, Topeka,and the Santa Fe in a later century?

The best way to avoid such knotty problems and stillobserve the occasion would be to spend the day volunteering at a NativeAmerican reservation, thus simultaneously recognizing and damning Columbus.Unfortunately, the number of Law andOrder marathons typically aired on this day and the maddeninglyinconvenient location of many reservations usually outweigh good intentions.

A more practical strategy, then, would be to celebrateColumbus Day by making an effort to give your children a thorough understandingof both the positive and the negative effects of Columbus’ trip toAmerica.  For those first few momentswhen they’re actually listening, tell them how courageous Columbus was.   Now just  picture the looks of curiosity and joy ontheir faces as they realize that, despite what they may have heard in school,if they turn the volume on their iPods up high enough, they won’t be able tohear you and can go back to playing “Let’s Kill As Many People As Possible” ontheir Xbox 360.  

One final suggestion. There are many car sales on Columbus Day, and what better way to observethe holiday than to acquire a means of transportation?  Because that’s what Columbus used to get herewhen he didn’t discover America. If you want to really do it up right, buy aPlymouth Voyager.


EdwardSmall is a recent graduate of Dickinson College.  He has interned at The Onion  and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.

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