Americans and Canadians are both in festive mood today, the second Monday in October, as they celebrate, respectively, Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.
Whilst spending last year studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder, my American friends were determined to throw more than just a few interesting facts about Columbus Day my way...
- The holiday was not really acknowledged until 400 years after Columbus first arrived in the Americas on October 12, 1492; it was only in 1892 that President Benjamin Harrison took special notice of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.
- In 1905, with the help of highly influential Senator Barela, Colorado became the first state to officially observe Columbus Day. Barela also played an influential role in setting up the Columbus Day parade in downtown Denver, now recognized as the longest-running Columbus Day parade across the nation. Originally beginning in 1907, this year the parade will celebrate its 101st anniversary. (If you’re one of the lucky UEA students studying at Boulder this year, check it out! We had an awesome time joining in the festivities which spread out across the streets of Denver last year!)
- It was not until 1937 that President Roosevelt nationally proclaimed October 12th as Columbus Day. However, since 1971 the holiday has officially been observed as the second Monday in October.
- Despite the fact that Columbus Day is named in memory of Christopher Columbus, some organizations across America have now renamed the holiday Indigenous People’s Day, believing that this name better reflects the realities surrounding this historical event. Native Americans were already inhabiting this supposedly ‘new’ land and they were cruelly pushed aside by the subsequent influx of Europeans. It is thus believed that this holiday should be about commemorating the resistance of the Natives against the oppressive forces which threatened to destroy them, whilst at the same time celebrating the survival and revitalization of Indigenous cultures over recent years.
Meanwhile, just across the border, Canadians are already enjoying their three-day Thanksgiving celebration. Family time, turkey dinners and a great deal of merriment – it reminds those of us in England that Christmas will now be fast approaching! Those of you in Canada, please post some pictures of your holiday experiences! (And remember: Canadians are in the middle of their own election campaign, too).