I’m not gonna lie, October is a solid month, especially here in RI. The leaves start changing, the go-go-go energy of summer fades away and people get a little more pensive and reflective (hopefully not too reflective, though — stave off the depression at least until December). In a sense, the more temperate weather brings a new beginning.
Once I thought it would be cool to name a child October — has a sort of whimsical ring to it. It would even make sense to call them Tobey for short. Then my friend said, ”No, that’s a stripper name.” And I said, “I guess.”
October has a lot of cool holidays. Let’s rank ‘em.
6. Columbus Day, October 10
I was going to lean right into how terrible Columbus was — he disfigured peaceful Native Americans when they didn’t bring him the gold he told them to retrieve, to the point where they died by suicide to avoid his punishments — but then I started reading about how this guy took his place in our culture in the first place. It turns out it was kind of by chance.
In 1792, Americans who had just defeated England at war were excited to celebrate a part of their origin that wasn’t British, and the 300th anniversary of his voyage seemed fitting. It gave us a new origin story. Then, around the 400th year anniversary, the over 4 million Italians who immigrated to the United States promoted Columbus’ Italian heritage as a way to say, “See? Italians helped discover America. Now please, stop discriminating against us.” And when Catholics realized they could use his image to promote Catholicism in America… well, FDR signed the first federal observance of Columbus Day in 1937, a mere 445 years after the actual events.
So, there you have it. Columbus was just sort of a cultural pawn for various people with little interest in what actually happened back in the day. Are we ready to switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day yet?
5. Pay Back A Friend Day, October 17
Better hit the ATM — or, um, your Venmo app — because Pay Back A Friend Day is coming back around. This is either a great day for you if you’re the one lending out the money, or a terrible day for you because you finally have to get your friends back for all of the GrubHub, the tickets, and the beers they’ve bought for you over the year.
Because it’s number five on the list, I think you know which side of that equation I tend to be on. I’m going to keep my phone off.
4. Halloween, October 31
I have friends who might hate me for this, but I haven’t gotten to wherever I am now by pulling punches. I did that mostly by coin flips and spontaneous last-minute decisions. Regardless, I’m putting Halloween in the middle of the holiday pack for October.
You might be like, ooooo, or more appropriately, bo0o0o, but for me, Halloween is a kid’s holiday. I can understand the appeal of a spooky aesthetic, but when an adult asks me what my costume is this year because they started planning theirs in July… It’s a little weird. Though admittedly, Halloween is when people get to be weird, so I guess I can appreciate that.
Another confession — I actually really enjoy candy corn, though I’m trying to watch my sugar intake lately so I don’t see a lot of it in my future this month.
3. Slap Your Annoying Coworker Day, October 23
This one is kinda like Pay Back A Friend Day. You’re either the coworker getting slapped and it’s terrible, or you’re the coworker doing the slapping and it’s great… if you’re into that sort of thing. I see this as like a light Purge — you can’t go around killing everyone, but you can get a little frustration out.
Oh, but also, this is still assault and illegal, so keep that in mind. People don’t know this, but October 24 is often regarded as the busiest HR day of the year due to all the paperwork.
2. Diwali, October 24
Diwali — or the “Festival of Lights” — is an October holiday celebrated in India as well as across the Hindu Diaspora. The lights are said to symbolize victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and inner light over spiritual darkness: All things I can get behind!
Diwali commemorates the day Prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman returned from exile. The prince was considered an embodiment of “dharma” (righteousness), and his subjects were so overjoyed to receive him they lit clay lamps in his honor, illuminating the city: thus, “Festival of Lights.”
Some Hindus also commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the “demon king” Narakasura. I don’t know a lot about the demon king, but he’s got a pretty cool name.
1. Coming Out Day, October 11
Come on out, don’t be shy! National Coming Out Day was inaugurated in 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, both LGBTQIA+ activists. They chose to celebrate identity rather than respond defensively to anti-LGBT attacks, thinking the latter was too predictable. October 11 was chosen as the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington, when an estimated 750,000 people arrived at the nation’s capital in support of gay rights.
The holiday emphasizes that the simplest form of activism is authenticity, and that homophobia thrives in silence and ignorance. The day is now observed around the world.
“Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does,” Eichberg said in 1993. “It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”