Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Indigenous People's Day!

Today is a confusing day.  For a long time, it only used to be Columbus Day.

(Well, technically Columbus Day has always been October 12th, the anniversary of the day that Christopher and his crew landed in the New World.  But read this post for more information about that confusion.)

For some, today still is Columbus Day.  The Italian-American community in New York celebrates the day with a parade, and the postal service celebrates with a holiday from bills and junk mail.

For others, however, today is Indigenous People's Day.  Although the idea had been cooking for a while, wikipedia states that Berkeley held the first official holiday in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival.  The idea is to celebrate the people already living here when they met Columbus' boat on that fateful day.

Trying to decide which holiday to celebrate is difficult, so I say celebrate both.  Or perhaps neither, as both of my local library systems have arranged to do.  Oh, all the libraries are indeed closed, but none of the signs mention Columbus or indigenous peoples.  They claim to be having staff training and seminars.

I remain skeptical.


  1. Although Columbus recorded his arrival as Oct 12, he was using the "Old Style" calendar, i.e., the Julian calendar. However, in 1582, Pope Gregory reformed the calendar, and today we use the "New Style" or "Gregorian" calendar. The problem was that Julius Caesar, in 45 BCE, decreed that there would be a leap day every 4 years, implying that the average length of the year was 365.25 days. However, it's not quite that long, and Pope Gregory had to remove 10 days, and in addition decree that there would be only 97 leap years every 400 years.

    So, if we want to celebrate the exact day (or close enough), we'd have to add about 13 days, or October 25.

    See for more fun!

    1. Oops, my mistake. You just need to add 11 days, so it would be October 23. 11 days was the shift by Pope Gregory, and that is still the number that needs to be added for dates at that time to agree. By now, however, the two calendars have drifted more, and are about 13 days apart. However, I don't need to include that since I'm trying to match a date from around 1500.