Monday, 11 October 2010

Reconsider Columbus Day

I don’t think it is ever ‘easy’ or ‘comfortable’ when people ask us to reconsider our national holidays.  More so, perhaps, when those people are not a citizen of our country.  But consider for a moment whether that national holiday honours all citizens of your country.

One of the major sources of contention when the Apartheid government of South Africa was replaced by the government of the African National Congress was that all of the national holidays were either changed or abolished and new ones were introduced.

The “Day of the Vow” on December 16th was no longer a day of thanksgiving to honour a promise made to God for helping the ‘pious’ Afrikaners defeat the ‘heathen’ Zulus at Blood River in 1838 (for this is how the events on that day were taught to us in school). Most of us ‘got’ why such a holiday might be offensive, most of us welcomed the change of name (and spirit) of the holiday to the “Day of Reconciliation” but there are still people who remember and honour the “Day of the Vow” each year.  They dress up in 19th-century clothing, make pilgrimage to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria and generally hark back to the glory days of Apartheid. 

Despite that minority, the majority of South Africans today observe a day of reconciliation, overcoming conflicts, forgiveness and nation building.  Or they at least take a day off and don’t rub the Battle of Blood River in the face of the majority of the population.

When the time comes for your government to recognise that perhaps history needs to be reflected more accurately, are you going to embrace the change and work together on reconciliation, forgiveness and nation building?  Or are you going to hold on to this holiday (and others) and all that it represents?  What does Columbus Day mean to you?

Reconsider Columbus Day



  1. Some holidays are steeped in tradition and the spirit remains the same. For me the most important thing is people actually know what it's all about - not just enjoying paid time off work.

    Looking forward to the weekend?

    Many thanks for visiting Norwich Daily Photo and leaving your comment. Come visit again tomorrow!

  2. You will never change people who are still stuck in the past, like the Afrikaans. Columbus day doesn't mean much to me as a Scot.

  3. @ Joy: You are quite right. The holidays seem so random here in the UK but I appreciate how meaningful they are back in South Africa and in the USA as well.

    @ Ryan: You are right in the short term, Ryan but not in the long term. Things like segregation and Apartheid are of the past and we can make even more progress. It is all about education.

  4. agree with Joys comment. Interesting post here.


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