Columbus, friend of Santa, discovers Halloween

Camille Nesler “Outside the Box”

Camille Nesler “Outside the Box”

Well, I tried. With the holiday season approaching and more things coming across the news, I was determined not to say a single thing this season and just let people bask in their delusions. And personally I think I did a pretty good job. After all, I lasted a whole 24 hours.

It starts each year with Columbus Day. Did you realize that elementary school children are still being taught that Columbus “discovered” America? I’ve told my kids from the very beginning that this is wrong. Columbus never set foot on what we know as America. What he actually discovered was the Bahamas archipelago and the island later named Hispaniola, which is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Not only that, but the island was already inhabited by natives. So he didn’t “discover” it — he just took it. And yet we celebrate him every year. Well, not at my house. It’s actually a standing joke in our family that if you want to celebrate Columbus Day accurately, you should go into someone’s home in the Bahamas, claim it as yours, and then state that it’s located in Arkansas.

The next holiday that gets me a bit riled up is Halloween. This year many schools around the country are refusing to let children say “trick or treat” or even the word “Halloween.” Some people even go as far as to call it a “devils holiday.” Give me a break. Halloween was originally known as “All Hallows Eve” and it was the day before “All Saints Day” on Nov. 1. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated the holiday as a day set aside to honor the saints and martyrs. Yes. It was a pope, not a devil. Now, many people will argue that All Hallows Eve was combined with the pagan festival of Samhain in which ancient Celtics would dress up and dance around a bonfire to ward off ghosts. People use this piece of information to condemn the holiday and the story may very well be true, but I bet those same naysayers also celebrate Christmas, and just wait until later in this column when I shed some light on all the pagan practices that have been incorporated into that holiday!

Moving right along to Thanksgiving: Schoolchildren are still being taught that the Indians and Pilgrims were great friends who came together in a loving harvest celebration and ate a lot of turkey. It didn’t exactly happen that way. The pilgrims came over and took a bunch of the Indians back with them as slaves, and they also left behind diseases such as small pox which wiped out large parts of the population who remained. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay, there was only one living Patuxet Indian left, a man named Squanto, who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them how to fish and grow corn and he also negotiated a peace treaty. At the end of the year they had a feast to honor him, and that is the real story behind the mythical “Thanksgiving” that is taught to all our schoolchildren. In fact if you’d really like a history lesson about Thanksgiving, here’s one. In 1637 near present day Groton, Conn., over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the holidays the way we see fit. But to actually teach our children a history behind these holidays that is, well, wrong, is just doing them an injustice.

And for all those condemning Halloween and hollering how it’s pagan, I have some advice: Do a little research next time you hang a Christmas wreath on your door or decorate a Christmas tree or light a yule log or kiss under the mistletoe, because guess what? Pagan. Every last one of them. Let’s not be hypocrites, shall we?

 

Camille Nesler is a published author and has written for several Arkansas newspapers in addition to online publications such as Livestrong and USA Today’s Travel Tips. She can be reached at camillenesler@gmail.com.