Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Columbus Day: Blah

by Robison Wells

In case you didn’t notice, yesterday was Columbus Day. I was completely unaware of the holiday until my wife called, telling me the bank was closed. And, if you can imagine, she wanted me to give her MY money instead, so she could buy milk for our starving children. Honestly: women! Also: Columbus!

No one celebrates Columbus Day anymore. No one misses school. No one misses work. (Well, no one except the bank, but that’s forgivable: the less they’re open, the fewer chances they’ll have to fail.)

Not only does no one celebrate it, but I really wonder if we should anymore. Because, seriously, who cares? That was more than 500 years ago. You know what else happened 500 years ago? No, you don't! Because nobody cares!

So, as a public service to you, I looked up Columbus and his Day on the old Wikipedia, and here are the interesting things that I discovered.

The first Columbus day was in 1792, when New York City celebrated the 300th anniversary. There wasn’t a second until a hundred years later (perhaps because the first one was lame?), and President Benjamin Harrison honored the 400th anniversary. Here’s what I find interesting about this: we had a President named Benjamin Harrison? I have a frickin’ minor in history, and I swear I’ve never heard of him.

(I just read all about Benjamin Harrison, and can firmly declare that the reason no one has ever heard of him was because there’s nothing interesting about him at all. There’s not even anything good to make a joke about. Benjamin Harrison is boring and, like Columbus Day, he is dead to me. Dead!)

Columbus Day didn’t become an official holiday until 1934, and the current date wasn’t set until 1971. And again, my question is: why? If you read this blog, and you were alive in 1971, please confirm for me the fact that not a single soul in all of America was clamoring for a holiday to celebrate Columbus.

(Well, I just read through the Wikipedia article on 1971, and discovered that it was kind of a culturally lame year. Among the top music hits of 1971: “I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)” and “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”. Chicago was beginning their meteoric rise to overratedness. On television, All in the Family and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour had just debuted. So, you know, maybe people wanted a holiday so they’d have more time to drink themselves to death.)

Anyway, back to Columbus Day. The city of Berkeley, California, chooses not to celebrate Columbus Day. Instead, they celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day”. This is because they’re hippies. (And because Columbus didn’t actually discover America, and when he got here he started enslaving people.)

Likewise, in South Dakota, Columbus Day is called “Native American Day”. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, it’s called “Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day”. I don’t know why.

In Boston, parking is free at all the meters!

October 9th is Leif Erickson Day. (He wasn’t the first European to get to America first, either, but he’s closer than Columbus.)

In Canada, Columbus Day is called Thanksgiving Day, and they eat a feast of ketchup potato chips, Shreddies, Kraft Dinner, and Figgy Duff (no relation to Hillary Duff).

Also, thanks to Wikipedia, I have just learned that there is a French Canadian food called pets de soeurs, which is kinda like a cinnamon roll. Translated literally, pets de soeurs means “Nun’s Farts”. I’m not making that up. Just thought you’d like know the crazy crap they’re inventing up in Canada.

In conclusion: I can’t support a holiday that benefits banks more than it benefits me. Also: Wikipedia is fun. Also: what’s up with those Canadians? Also, if that picture is any indicator, Columbus had a huge body and a tiny head.


At 10/14/2008 10:26 AM, Blogger melissa c said...

Can I just sit here laughing for a moment? Yes? Okay then!

Great post! I went to check my mail and found none! That is something that doesn't happen often!

Hey, I was wondering, when will we be able to register for the 2009 conference in Layton? I REALLY want to go!

Please let me know! If sucking up will help..... I really love your posts. Very informative, thoughtful and intriguing. I worship your insightful prose and yearn for more each day!

He he. Thanks you! Have a good one!

At 10/14/2008 10:39 AM, Blogger Bryan H. said...

Dude...I work for the Federal government. I get the day off. Please don't denigrate an institution that allows to take a Monday off in the middle of October to play Xbox and annoy my wife.

At 10/14/2008 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have known it was Columbus day if my local scout troop had deposited a flag on my lawn, but they were slothful and did not.
(The troop up the street did, as I finally noticed on my sixth attempt to retrieve my undelivered mail.)

I was around in 1971, and I remember having rollicking good times in school on Columbus Day (Even we dinosaurs didn't get that day off.)
We created fabulous macaroni art depicting the event, and sang songs such as:
"In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, with 3 small ships and a [something] crew..." OK, that's as far as my memory goes.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with a holiday that helps us honor events in our history - I blame society for your cynicism.
They've taken the holidays away from "the people", and turned them into what my husband calls "secret government holidays" which may only be celebrated by federal workers and banks. No wonder you are bitter.

Great post though - you certainly did your research!

...And, hey - what IS up with those Canadians anyway?


At 10/14/2008 12:00 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

Could you please do a post about Chester Arthur? Because someone told me that he was a U.S. president, too, but that doesn't sound like anyone I've ever heard of so I kind of doubt it. Perhaps your minor history, er, I mean, history minor skills could clarify this.

At 10/14/2008 12:51 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

That must have been why the stock market went up so much yesterday. Maybe the banks should close more often.

At 10/14/2008 4:49 PM, Blogger pwells said...

Rob, many times in your childhood, we made you sit through the movie, "The One and Only Genuine, Original Family Band", which was all about the presidential election between Harrison and Cleveland. It had such unforgettable lyrics as "Let's put it over with Grover" and "Benjamin Harrison -- he's far beyond comparison". Have you just suppressed those wonderful family memories?

At 10/14/2008 6:06 PM, Blogger Allison Hill said...

I actually do remember the "let's put it over with Grover" line, but I swear I don't remember the Harrison line--how weird is that? I also majored in History and did very well in my American History classes and I don't think he was a president either.

At 10/14/2008 7:01 PM, Blogger christina pettit said...

I actually did know there was a President Benjamin Harrison. But only because I went to school at Weber State which is Ogden, where they decided to name the streets after all the presidents but ran out of room when they got to the mountains . . . which just happens to be Harrison, upon which Weber state sits . . . the boulevard not the president.

At 10/14/2008 9:18 PM, Blogger Paiges' Pages said...


You crack me up! :) I suppose the holiday was good for one thing...I got my new shoes for half price so I could go ahead and wear holes through these ones working on federal holidays. :)

At 10/15/2008 1:13 AM, Anonymous Dan Wells said...

I knew there was a President Benjamin Harrison, but that's because I got better grades than both of you. Combined.

At 10/15/2008 1:29 AM, Blogger Kelsi Rose said...

I laughed for five minutes. This post was a good reason for Columbus Day. I wouldn't have learned anything about old presidents or Canadians if you hadn't thought that Columbus Day was useless.

At 10/15/2008 8:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun post, but whether local and national governments honor Columbus Day or not, Latter-day Saints should. Our Columbus Day family devotional included the following readings: 1 Nephi 13:12; excerpts from the writings of Columbus about the Spirit's work in his life; excerpts from Wilford Woodruff's account of being visited by eminent men, including Columbus, in the St. George Temple; and quotes from latter-day prophets about Columbus. Our children need to know the role of Columbus in preparing the way for the restoration of the gospel.

And, Disney's "One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" is one of our family favorites!

At 10/15/2008 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Anon! Go Columbus. The man is a Book of Mormon icon!

At 10/15/2008 11:18 AM, Anonymous Willard Smith said...

Actually Columbus Day was celebrated as an ethnic holiday for Italian-Americans. I remember celebrating it in elementary school back in the 1960s (we did not get a day off): it gave the teachers an excuse to talk about the discovery of America.

The Song they taught us in school went like this:

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

At 10/16/2008 4:14 AM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

My daughter, Nina, was born in 1992. It was, regrettably, the 500 year anniversary and there was some excitement about it that year. People asked us if we named her after one of the three ships.

The answer is no. We named her that because I have Norwegian cousins by that name, and it also features beautifully in Russian and Spanish cultures.

Nowdays, she doesn't get the "are you named after Columbus's ship?" question as much as she gets, "Is it pronounced 'Neenuh,' or 'Nine-a'?"

Word to the wise- she hates Nine-a.

At 10/17/2008 3:28 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Seeing as How I didn't read this on the day it was posted, and I'm too lazy to scroll to the top, what day was Columbus day? Was it Monday, I can't say as I remember. In the 3rd grade we did a Columbus day play with pilgrims in it, even though they didn't come with Columbus. I didn't know it was also picture day and I didn't bring a change of clothes so my picture is of me in my pilgrim costume. I was short so I was in the front row and so embarrassed. I blame most of my issues on that day.


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