October is a good month for holidays in North America. At the end of the month we have the collision of the Celtic Samhain with the Aztec / Spanish Dia de los Muertos which swirled into Halloween. But in the middle is the difficult holiday, the one where we celebrate the connection of this continent with the rest of the world. And the three brother nations of this continent have their own ways of marking it. This is a repeat from 2011, updated.
To our North, in Canada, the first Monday after October 12th is Thanksgiving, this year on the 13th. To our South, in Mexico, the 12th is Dia de la Raza. Our brother nations here in North America have found things to celebrate in the early days of Autumn, but here in the USofA we have nothing but the pseudo-holiday Columbus Day – something we’ve tossed over our shoulders and given up on.
This may be a measure of our ability to get anything together.
Canadian Thanksgiving is a much simpler holiday for any of us to relate to. It occurs at the end of the harvest, a more traditional time for such a holiday. The USofA’s own Thanksgiving is celebrated in November to celebrate the passage of the Constitution, as decreed by George Washington. If that all sounds a bit stuffy and official it’s the ability of people to take it over and make it meaningful that has preserved it. Besides, in Canada they have the CFL’s Thanksgiving Day Classic to watch.
Dia de la Raza is much trickier. Rather than simply ditch Columbus Day it was acknowledged that, for better or worse, the destiny of the Americas changed 518 years ago. From that day forward we became a new people, made up from the people who wandered this direction and made this great land their home. And so we have “la Raza”, the new race of people that is neither indigenous nor invader nor slave but a little bit of everything. As troubling as the origins may have been, they are our origins. We can celebrate them today, as they do from Mexico to the South.
But on this day we in the USofA simply trudge off to work about as always. We don’t celebrate Columbus Day any longer because it seems so unimportant to us. Mention the man and you’re likely to hear a diatribe about the enslavement of the Americas or how he didn’t really “discover” anything. Neither popular response acknowledges that something important did happen, awful as it was at times, which made us who we are. We’d rather just forget it and go on with our daily lives.
Among the three great nations of North America there are three visions of a holiday that fits the changing season. Canada’s is wistful and conservative, Mexico’s is feisty and progressive. Ours is to simply ignore any need for a public celebration that acknowledges any kind of common culture or common understanding of any kind.
But we do have an election in a month.
When you contemplate how our “politics” runs these days – basically shouting past each other about things that don’t really matter all that much – consider how our culture comes together to provide us with some kind of common understanding of who we are as a people. If that seems too vague, look to our brothers here in North America for two different but quite complete ways of looking at the shared bonds of nationhood.
If you see a problem with all this you are far from alone. I simply would not say it is a problem with “politics” which can be solved by any political party, law, regulation, or other trapping of force and power. It’s going to have to be in our hearts.
Feliz Dia de la Raza and a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!