Once upon a time, Columbus Day was considered a relatively simple holiday. School children cut out trios of paper ships, learning about the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria that carried Christopher Columbus and his brave sailors on a perilous journey that resulted in the discovery of America. Schools and businesses closed – unless, of course, they were having a Big Columbus Day Sale!
Today, things are considerably more complicated. Lessons about Christopher Columbus now include words like colonialism and genocide; the discovery that was great news for Ferdinand and Isabella was certainly not for the Native peoples who lived here prior to his arrival. The decision to celebrate or skip Columbus Day is no longer simple. Does your business acknowledge and honor Columbus’ accomplishments, or do you make different choices based on the impact those accomplishments had on indigenous people?
It’s important to understand that this issue is relevant even if your customer base is not wholly or largely Native American. There are exponentially more people who are uncomfortable with Columbus Day than there are people with Native heritage in this country; bear in mind that these people will be discussing your business’ decision to celebrate Columbus Day not only in your neighborhood but on social media.
This may be okay with you. There are a number of reasons why a business owner may want to celebrate Columbus Day. Part of owning your own business is having the freedom to run your company the way you see fit. In some Italian-American communities, the thought of not honoring Christopher Columbus would be absolutely unthinkable. There are no easy answers.
We don’t have hard numbers on this, but on an anecdotal basis, we can report that we’re seeing fewer and fewer Columbus Day promotions and sales events. It may be that we’re seeing the end of an era. In a generation or two, will anyone remember that businesses closed and prices dropped on Columbus Day?