Happy Columbus Day!

We should have a discussion for Columbus Day as we have for other holidays.

This day is also observed in Latin American countries as Dia de la Raza, a day to mark the meeting and mixing of Native American and Spanish cultures.  Many Native Americans, especially in the U.S.A., see Columbus Day as a time of mourning.  But other activists use it as a time to celebrate the Hispanic presence in the Americas and to protest what they consider to be injustices, such as restrictive  immigration laws.  Columbus, of course, was an Italian who served the monarchs of Spain.   In the United States, this day is also a time to celebrate the Italian presence!

What is the true meaning of Columbus Day?  (Besides the true meaning that  Columbus discovered America on October 12!)   Is there a Christian dimension to this holiday, or had we better just leave that alone?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    A Christian dimension to an event that brought the gospel to a whole new hemisphere? I’d say so.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    A Christian dimension to an event that brought the gospel to a whole new hemisphere? I’d say so.

  • Tom Hering

    @ 1: seriously? In the age of exploration/exploitation, conversion was at sword point. Many converts were enslaved, and those who refused to be converted were slaughtered. The Gospel, I’d say, came later.

  • Tom Hering

    @ 1: seriously? In the age of exploration/exploitation, conversion was at sword point. Many converts were enslaved, and those who refused to be converted were slaughtered. The Gospel, I’d say, came later.

  • peter

    Don’t forget it is also Canadian Thanksgiving! This is also a day of rejoicing and thanks for all of God’s bountiful provisions and the bountiful harvest he has provided.

  • peter

    Don’t forget it is also Canadian Thanksgiving! This is also a day of rejoicing and thanks for all of God’s bountiful provisions and the bountiful harvest he has provided.

  • Richard Lewer

    The Aztecs also had required religion for those they conquered. It involved getting your heart cut out. Can we avoid talk of the “noble savage?”

  • Richard Lewer

    The Aztecs also had required religion for those they conquered. It involved getting your heart cut out. Can we avoid talk of the “noble savage?”

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Columbus seems to have had the idea, at least some of the time, that he was on a mission to bring the gospel to the Indies (as he saw the new world). However, his record in his treatment of the natives is so mixed that it’s probably not worth bringing up.

    It’s also often forgotten that his chief motivation was not merely to find a short route to the Indies, but to find a route not dominated by Islamic powers. An alliance of east and west against Islam was (if I remember correctly) not outside his calculations.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Columbus seems to have had the idea, at least some of the time, that he was on a mission to bring the gospel to the Indies (as he saw the new world). However, his record in his treatment of the natives is so mixed that it’s probably not worth bringing up.

    It’s also often forgotten that his chief motivation was not merely to find a short route to the Indies, but to find a route not dominated by Islamic powers. An alliance of east and west against Islam was (if I remember correctly) not outside his calculations.

  • Cincinnatus

    According to my progressive friends–and I see Tom has already gone some way in establishing the narrative already–Columbus Day symbolizes imperialism, Euro-centrism, chauvinism, and genocide, among other crimes.

  • Cincinnatus

    According to my progressive friends–and I see Tom has already gone some way in establishing the narrative already–Columbus Day symbolizes imperialism, Euro-centrism, chauvinism, and genocide, among other crimes.

  • Tom Hering

    Nah, I don’t believe it symbolizes those things, Cincinnatus. The day just perpetuates the Columbus hagiography, first imagined by Washington Irving and other American writers in the decades immediately following the Revolution. That hagiography is contradicted by facts, discovered or rediscovered later. Not so much the case when connecting Columbus to the things you mentioned. Though the connection is often exaggerated.

  • Tom Hering

    Nah, I don’t believe it symbolizes those things, Cincinnatus. The day just perpetuates the Columbus hagiography, first imagined by Washington Irving and other American writers in the decades immediately following the Revolution. That hagiography is contradicted by facts, discovered or rediscovered later. Not so much the case when connecting Columbus to the things you mentioned. Though the connection is often exaggerated.

  • SKPeterson

    I would think that detractors of Columbus Day would not be celebrating theHispanic presence in the Americas, since that is the latinate name for the Spanish peninsula. You know, Spain (Espana = Hispania = Hispanic) and Portugal. The home of the conquistadors, birthplace of men like Pizarro, Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca, et al. Ring any bells?

    Besides, as a Scando-American I demand that we make this not Columbus Day, but Viking Explorer’s Day, and put up statues of Leif Eriksson everywhere and celebrate by eating platefuls of lefse.

  • SKPeterson

    I would think that detractors of Columbus Day would not be celebrating theHispanic presence in the Americas, since that is the latinate name for the Spanish peninsula. You know, Spain (Espana = Hispania = Hispanic) and Portugal. The home of the conquistadors, birthplace of men like Pizarro, Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca, et al. Ring any bells?

    Besides, as a Scando-American I demand that we make this not Columbus Day, but Viking Explorer’s Day, and put up statues of Leif Eriksson everywhere and celebrate by eating platefuls of lefse.

  • Tom Hering

    Chinese Stone Anchor Day on the West Coast.

  • Tom Hering

    Chinese Stone Anchor Day on the West Coast.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I didn’t even realize it was Columbus Day. And the holiday has lost a good part of its meaning as more evidence suggest the Vikings got here first.

    Also, I don’t care about Columbus Day. It is just another Monday that I am in the office.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I didn’t even realize it was Columbus Day. And the holiday has lost a good part of its meaning as more evidence suggest the Vikings got here first.

    Also, I don’t care about Columbus Day. It is just another Monday that I am in the office.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther:

    Yes, but the Vikings were apparently not technologically superior to the natives they encountered.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther:

    Yes, but the Vikings were apparently not technologically superior to the natives they encountered.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Much as I love Leif Eriksson, there’s no comparison between him and Columbus. Leif and his successors stayed for a short time, went home again, and left things much as they found them. Columbus, like him or not, left behind a world very different from the one he was born into.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Much as I love Leif Eriksson, there’s no comparison between him and Columbus. Leif and his successors stayed for a short time, went home again, and left things much as they found them. Columbus, like him or not, left behind a world very different from the one he was born into.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I think that the introduction of the Gospel–even in the flawed Catholic “faith plus works” form–is something to celebrate, as is the end of state supported blood sacrifice of the prisoners of war–and following cannibalism. The end of most intertribal wars due to Spanish rule (at least in areas where they had enough people there to make a difference) is also something to be celebrated.

    The continuation of slavery and the introduction of smallpox and the plague, on the other hand….not so much.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I think that the introduction of the Gospel–even in the flawed Catholic “faith plus works” form–is something to celebrate, as is the end of state supported blood sacrifice of the prisoners of war–and following cannibalism. The end of most intertribal wars due to Spanish rule (at least in areas where they had enough people there to make a difference) is also something to be celebrated.

    The continuation of slavery and the introduction of smallpox and the plague, on the other hand….not so much.

  • helen

    SKP @ 8
    Besides, as a Scando-American I demand that we make this not Columbus Day, but Viking Explorer’s Day, and put up statues of Leif Eriksson everywhere and celebrate by eating platefuls of lefse.

    I was wondering if you’d get to this before I did.
    I’ll concur, if we can have Danish frikadeller, too. :)

    Leif came, saw, and went home again without subjugating anyone.
    That should make him a hero to the anti colonialists! :)
    [Who should thereafter have to explain what they are doing here.] 8-^)

  • helen

    SKP @ 8
    Besides, as a Scando-American I demand that we make this not Columbus Day, but Viking Explorer’s Day, and put up statues of Leif Eriksson everywhere and celebrate by eating platefuls of lefse.

    I was wondering if you’d get to this before I did.
    I’ll concur, if we can have Danish frikadeller, too. :)

    Leif came, saw, and went home again without subjugating anyone.
    That should make him a hero to the anti colonialists! :)
    [Who should thereafter have to explain what they are doing here.] 8-^)

  • helen

    Most of those “intertribal wars” ended because there was nobody left to fight, what with slavery, smallpox, measles and a few other “childhood diseases”.

    OTOH, we still have an abundance of “intertribal” wars. :(

  • helen

    Most of those “intertribal wars” ended because there was nobody left to fight, what with slavery, smallpox, measles and a few other “childhood diseases”.

    OTOH, we still have an abundance of “intertribal” wars. :(

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    @Tom,

    Whatever sins he may have committed, we wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t come this way.

    As for the Vikings, it doesn’t count as discovering America if you don’t tell anyone about it.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    @Tom,

    Whatever sins he may have committed, we wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t come this way.

    As for the Vikings, it doesn’t count as discovering America if you don’t tell anyone about it.

  • SKPeterson

    The Vikings weren’t technologically superior and didn’t have horses, but as helen notes, they also lacked the most important weapon that allowed the later Europeans to succeed: disease. Look at the contemporary depictions of Aztec warriors trying to fight off the Spanish while dying from small pox. Now the Incas were done in by two factors: 1) a debilitating civil war which weakened the military capacity of the country, and 2) an overly centralized state that couldn’t conceive of people who wouldn’t be deferential to The Inca. The Spanish under Pizarro simply did a “cut the head off the snake” maneuver and took control by simply making themselves the new head.

  • SKPeterson

    The Vikings weren’t technologically superior and didn’t have horses, but as helen notes, they also lacked the most important weapon that allowed the later Europeans to succeed: disease. Look at the contemporary depictions of Aztec warriors trying to fight off the Spanish while dying from small pox. Now the Incas were done in by two factors: 1) a debilitating civil war which weakened the military capacity of the country, and 2) an overly centralized state that couldn’t conceive of people who wouldn’t be deferential to The Inca. The Spanish under Pizarro simply did a “cut the head off the snake” maneuver and took control by simply making themselves the new head.

  • Jon

    It’s also mattress and car sale holiday.

  • Jon

    It’s also mattress and car sale holiday.

  • Joe

    As kid who grew up the midst of the Old Copper Culture area of Wisconsin/U.P. I don’t buy into the notion that Columbus was the first European to establish settlements and/or trade with the early American people. I know the claims of an early trans-Atlantic copper trade a somewhat controversial, but they aren’t where I come from. :)

  • Joe

    As kid who grew up the midst of the Old Copper Culture area of Wisconsin/U.P. I don’t buy into the notion that Columbus was the first European to establish settlements and/or trade with the early American people. I know the claims of an early trans-Atlantic copper trade a somewhat controversial, but they aren’t where I come from. :)


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