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Columbus Day
to Halloween

Natalia J. Garland

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The month of October brings in seasonal and emotional changes. The days are getting shorter. Some people will go to work in the darkness of early morning and come home in the darkness of evening, often without seeing much sunlight in between. For those who prefer the cooler weather, this is an ideal time of year to take a vacation at off-peak prices.

October also presents us with two controversial holidays, Columbus Day and Halloween. The federal government recognizes Columbus Day as a legal holiday. Many people honor Columbus as the official discoverer of America, the one who opened the door for a nation of immigrants. But there are other people, mostly Native Americans, whose voices are becoming stronger in objection to the status given Columbus. They feel it is an absurdity to claim discovery of a land that was already inhabited by indigenous peoples, and they credit Columbus with the beginning of the slaughter of Natives.

Halloween is becoming an expensive and flamboyant holiday. It divides people into two basic camps: those with religious objections and those without. The religious objectors have concerns about the demonic influences conjured up in some Halloween celebrations. They are sensitive to the seductive attraction of evil. For those without religious objection, Halloween is one of the few American holidays without political or religious basis: Christians, Jews, Republicans, Democrats, and all ethnic groups can take their kids out trick-or-treating.

Our democracy affords us the right to self-determination regarding these holidays. The federal government may sanction Columbus Day, but people are free to disagree with it and to dislike it. People are free to honor Columbus with a parade, to use the day off to shop at the sales, or to educate and litigate for political change and historical accuracy. People can choose how they want to raise their children. People can create substitute church-related activities for their kids at Halloween, or they can dress the kids up and walk them through the neighborhood.

For those who started back to school in September, the month of October will have sifted out the dropouts and the classroom will have stabilized itself. The school year will move steadily forward and some people will soon have another A-grade or be closer to another diploma of some sort.

After the lovely orange pumpkins have been taken off the market and the bags of candy have been devoured, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanza, and Hannukah will quickly follow. For clinical and medical social workers, that could mean helping patients who show increased depression and suicidal tendencies. It will probably mean an increase in D.U.I.'s and court referrals.

November and December are more significant in terms of holidays, but October is the last month in which many people will see colors outdoors. October has a fullness within itself. It gives us warm, crisp colors: yellow, brown, orange, with some summer green still in the background. Even though it will soon get squeezed out by the long winter, October can hold its own.

This is a good time to take a trip, to enjoy beauty and mystery, to study and share in a school identity, to reflect on values and beliefs, and to appreciate the struggles of our patients. (Written 10/21/02 - Revised 08/01/06)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002, 2006 Natalia J. Garland