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Opinion

Columbus Day celebration lacks enthusiasm in United States

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October 11, 2012

To many of us Monday, Oct. 8, was just a typical October day. The sky was gloomy, the wind was howling and the ground was littered with fallen leaves from the trees.

But what many people have forgotten to recognize is that Monday was a federal holiday. Columbus Day is not a huge holiday, so it is frequently overlooked each October. This holiday, however, is actually a very important day in our nation’s history.

One fact that many people in the “New World” should already know is that Columbus Day is a day to commemorate Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492.

The holiday is set every year for the second Monday in the month of October in the United States in order to coincide with the discovery date. It is mostly the Americas which celebrate this day, although Spain also observes Columbus Day as a national holiday.

Spain is important in Columbus’s discoveries, for it initiated the forming of Spanish colonies in the Americas. There are many different names for this federal holiday, including “Día de la Raza” in many Latin American countries and “Discovery Day” in the Bahamas.

Columbus Day had been unofficially celebrated since the late 18th century, but it finally became an official observed national holiday in various areas at the start of the 20th century. This included parts of the United States.

Colorado began to observe Columbus Day as a state holiday in 1906. The entirety of the United States followed in 1937, making it a federal holiday. Despite this, many people throughout the Americas had been observing Columbus’s discoveries since the colonial times.

An example of this was in 1792 when New York City, and various other cities in the United States, celebrated the 300th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery.

One hundred years later, U.S. President Benjamin Harrison wanted to follow this example and celebrate the 400th anniversary.

Teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used the rituals of this holiday to teach others the ideals of patriotism and loving one’s country. It taught such values as support for war, citizenship boundaries, staying loyal to the country and accepting social progress.

An issue with the growing number of immigrants into the “New World” was the number of Catholics gaining citizenship, because they became a target for anti-immigration activists.

Catholics worked towards fighting discrimination by creating organizations and providing insurance for struggling immigrants. Many looked to Columbus as a hero since he was a fellow Catholic and served as a symbol to this nation of people.

Many also look to Columbus as a hero, because he was Italian. They recognize the holiday as a celebration of their heritage.

Many people in the United States attend school and work on this holiday and do not celebrate Columbus Day at all.  Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota do not even observe Columbus Day as a national holiday.

On the other hand, several other places hold large-scale parades and events in their community. San Francisco has the oldest existing celebration, known as the “Columbus Day Parade,” the second largest celebration after New York City.

Latin American countries recognize the day as a rallying day for the Hispanic people, rallying for their rights since Columbus Day March on Washington in 1996.

Many other holidays also fall on this day, including Thanksgiving, in Canada, Day of the Armed Forces, in Spain, and Yorktown Victory Day, in Virginia.

For the Day of the Armed Forces in Spain, a military parade is held in Madrid, causing them to overlook Columbus Day.

Yorktown Victory Day honors the final victory at the Siege of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. Virginia observes both this and Columbus Day every year, but holds no known upscale celebrations.

While Columbus Day is not a holiday that many people normally celebrate from year to year, it is good to keep it in mind. None of us would even live here if it were not for Christopher Columbus’s discovery.

So while one may not celebrate the holiday with a big party or an upscale parade, they should at least honor it and allow themselves to be grateful that they live in the free world.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.