Every year we go through the same argument. It was Tom Keane’s turn this time with his Oct. 15 op-ed “Columbus Day – a holiday without a hero.” Columbus would not be my first choice of men after whom to pattern my life nor pass lessons to my children. Nonetheless, he was a man of the times, and there were many like him with similar goals of fame and wealth.
But how many other holidays have evolved since their origin? Christmas, Saint Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, to name a few, have become synonymous with marketing, car sales, and barbecues.
The Columbus Day holiday has grown as well. It has become a celebration of Italian heritage, not a salute to Columbus himself.
Have you seen a recent Columbus Day Parade? You can walk the street and be invited into a stranger’s home for a plate of food and a pastry.
And talk about diversity. Hip-hop bands, Caribbean dancers in colorful costumes, and Brazilian youth soccer teams performing ball-handling tricks all parade along with traditional marching bands and other charitable groups. This is a party of inclusion.
Keane wrote, “Columbus Day is destined, perhaps deservedly, to fade away.” I’ll concede that the legacy of the 15th-century Columbus may be tarnished, but I hope the 21st-century Columbus Day will live a long life.