As the childhood rhyme goes ‘In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue’…yes, Columbus Day is fast approaching and this year it will be observed in the USA on Monday, October, 14. Whilst for many Americans this merely means a day off work and a little more time with family, with a little forethought there are some great ways to turn the next Federal holiday into a memorable event to enjoy with others.
Whether you use it as an opportunity to reflect on some American history with your grand kids or mark it by serving a special brunch or dinner, Columbus Day can be a lovely excuse to enjoy some fall sunshine together with family and do something a little bit special as we mark one of the most significant days in the history of the U.S.
Columbus Day, held each year on the second Monday of October, is a national holiday held to celebrate the anniversary of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492.
In many states this means a day off, having been named an official national holiday in 1937 by Franklin D Roosevelt. While some cities host parades to mark the occasion; New York and Boston both have sizeable Columbus day parades, many Italian Americans use the holiday to display their pride by dressing up, playing music and of course, making food. Some cities have replaced the day with a holiday to commemorate their own indigenous population. In 2019 Los Angeles will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on this date, following in the footsteps of Seattle, Denver and Albuquerque.
This year, why not choose a different way to observe Columbus Day yourself:
Watch the Parade
Federal holidays would not be complete without parades to commemorate the occasion. In recognition of US citizens mixed views of the holiday, the great thing about these is that it does not celebrate Columbus’ discovery of America itself but more the Italian American culture that so many of us relish. While the St Patrick’s Day Parade and Thanksgiving Day Parade draw huge crowds and make it tough to get around, the Columbus Day Parade has all the great features of an NYC parade without the chaos. Or, enjoy the spectacle of it all from the small screen and stream it online.
Have fun with family
Maybe the long weekend has afforded the chance to be with family and there are young grand kids to spend time with. Depending on the age of the children you could give them a memorable day that is linked to the occasion by organizing a scavenger hunt linked to the discovery of the New World, or making some craft together like a model of the Santa Maria, or even cook a special Italian American meal together.
If the children are school age you can ask them for what they have learned about U.S history, they are sure to have covered the significance of the date in school – kids love to share their knowledge! Or perhaps even challenge them to a fun quiz to see who scores the highest.
Watch a movie
Gather with friends or family and brush up on your own knowledge of the discovery of the New World. Get some popcorn ready and enjoy one of the movies based on these events. There is nothing like the escapism of a good film to bring events to life and understand how a single event changed the course of history. Try ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’ or ‘The New World’.
Enjoy a Columbus Day meal
If you would rather spend the day in the comfort of your home, you can still mark the holiday in style by enjoying some delicious food. One thing we know beyond doubt is that Columbus found food – new and amazing food in bright colors and bold flavors. He may have set out to find a shorter way to the spices of India but instead, he found the spices of America. So, as well as colorful tomatoes, corn and sweet potatoes Columbus would have tasted for the first time the spicy flavors of chili pepper, cayenne and allspice. So, add a little spice to your feast and imagine discovering such delights after a seafarer’s diet of hardtack (sea biscuits) and salted fish. Columbus would also have been introduced to vanilla and cocoa so feel free to finish off a Columbus Day meal with some chocolate cake or pudding, after all it’s in the spirit of the holiday!
Arguably the best way to honor Mr Columbus would be to explore, of course! So, consider a vacation somewhere you have always wanted to visit or discover for yourself and fit this in before the busy holiday season gets underway. Or, more locally, take a boat trip of your own to enjoy the sights and sounds around you, or simply enjoy a lovely fall walk somewhere further afield and discover what a new neighborhood has to offer.
Whatever you choose to do this Columbus Day, take a moment to wonder at the world around you and enjoy this commemorative day.