Another Columbus Day has come and gone, but not without protests and calls to change the name and focus of the holiday. But if we are going to get rid of Columbus Day, there are some other federal holidays that ought to be eliminated as well.
Columbus Day was made a federal holiday in the United States in 1936. The original date was October 12—the date in 1492 that a sailor on the Pinta sighted an island in the Bahamas that Christopher Columbus would name San Salvador. By the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 (effective 1971), the Columbus Day holiday was moved to the second Monday in October so federal employees could always have a three-day weekend. The Monday observance of Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day was also instituted, although the observance of Veterans Day was later returned to the fixed date of November 11.
Although Columbus Day is a federal holiday, it is the least celebrated one. Columbus Day is not even observed in some states. Some companies include it as a paid holiday, but most do not.
If some Americans had their way, there would be no Columbus Day at all. There is a growing movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day or some other designation because of the “evils” perpetrated by Columbus on the native peoples he encountered. But the merits and demerits of Columbus and Columbus Day are not my concern here.
Why no protest over other federal holidays—especially ones that have been turned into military appreciation days?
If we are going to change or eliminate Columbus Day because Columbus brought death to natives, then Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day ought to be changed or eliminated as well.
Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. It was first observed in honor of Union soldiers who died during the War to Prevent Southern Independence. It was initially called Decoration Day because the tombs of dead soldiers were decorated. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to include U. S. soldiers who died in any war.
Independence Day is celebrated on July 4. It commemorates the adoption in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence when the thirteen original American colonies seceded from the British Empire and declared themselves to be “free and independent states.”
Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11. It began as Armistice Day—a day to commemorate the signing of the armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that ended fighting on the Western Front in World War I. A few years after World War II, the holiday was changed to Veterans Day as a tribute to all soldiers who had fought for their country.
The focus of all three of these holidays has changed considerably over the years. All three of these holidays are now just days to honor, reverence, and worship all things military. They ought to be called Military Appreciation Day 1, Military Appreciation Day 2, and Military Appreciation Day 3. Or perhaps May Military Appreciation Day, July Military Appreciation Day, and November Military Appreciation Day.
Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day are now just days, more than usual, to:
- Thank veterans and active-duty military personnel for their service.
- Encourage young people to join the military.
- Give veterans and active-duty military personnel special discounts.
- Express support for the troops.
- Give veterans and active-duty military personnel free meals.
- Equate patriotism with admiration for the military.
- Call every veteran and an active-duty member of the military heroes.
- Express pity, sympathy, and empathy for soldiers stationed overseas.
- Fly military flying jets over sporting events.
- Solicit donations for wounded warriors or military families.
- Stage patriotism at sporting events.
- Thank U.S. soldiers for fighting “over there” so we don’t have to fight “over here.”
- Put on “salute to the military” celebrations and musical “all-star salutes” to the troops.
- Insist that the military defends our freedoms.
- Have commercials for the military on television.
- Have parades to honor the military.
- Post signs outside of businesses that implore customers to support the troops.
- Having special military appreciation days.
- Post on their church signs: Pray for Our Troops.
- Post on their church signs statements about U.S. troops dying for our freedoms like Christ died for our sins.
- Sing patriotic hymns instead of hymns of worship about the person and work of Christ.
- Have veterans and active-duty military personnel wear their uniforms to church.
- Recognize veterans and active-duty military personnel during the church service.
- Print the names of veterans and active-duty military personnel in the church bulletin.
- Have veterans and active-duty military personnel stand during the church services.
- Decorate the church buildings and grounds with American flags.
- Ask God to bless the troops.
- Pray for the troops to be kept out of harm’s way.
- Applaud veterans and active-duty military personnel during the church services.
- Show video tributes to the troops during the church services.
- Recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the church services.
- Have the pianist play the song of each branch of the military during the offering.
- Ask military chaplains to speak.
- Have a military color guard parade down the main aisle of the church to open the service.
So, you want to abolish Columbus Day because you believe Columbus killed, enslaved, and committed genocide? Okay fine. Just make sure you likewise protest the transforming of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day into military appreciation days.
Laurence M. Vance writes from central Florida. He is the author of The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom; War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism; War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy; and many other books. His newest book is the second edition of King James, His Bible, and Its Translators. Visit his website.