Celebrating Columbus Day

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


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

     -Columbus did not, technically, or in any other way, actually, discover America.
     -Once Columbus got to America, he did not 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 it anyway. Columbus said why, in Italian: “Perche sono el capitano e posso,” or something like that, meaning “Because I am the captain and I can.”
     -It was impossible for Columbus to say the word “seamen” without giggling.  Even though he said “marinai,” he knew what the English translation was.
     -The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria all tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Such findings have caused many people to seriously question whether or not Columbus Day should remain a national holiday. They usually quiet down once we remind them that getting rid of it would cost everyone a three-day weekend, but there is a movement afoot to keep your fingers crossed during the whole Monday off. Other questions remain:  Did Columbus start his voyage in 1492 because he knew it rhymed with “ocean blue”  in English, or was it just a coincidence? Did he purposely name his ships in such a 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 still observe the occasion would be to spend the day volunteering at a Native American reservation, thus simultaneously recognizing and damning Columbus. Unfortunately, the number of Law and Order marathons typically aired on this day and the maddeningly inconvenient location of many reservations usually outweigh good intentions.


A more practical strategy, then, would be to celebrate Columbus Day by making an effort to give your children a thorough understanding of both the positive and the negative effects of Columbus’ trip to America.  For those first few moments when they’re actually listening, tell them how courageous Columbus was.   Now just  picture the looks of curiosity and joy on their 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 to hear you and can go back to playing “Let’s Kill As Many People As Possible” on their Xbox 360.  


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

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


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