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Happy Colon Day

05th November 2019

Colon Day has nothing to do with digestion and nothing to do with grammar. It has everything to do with respecting the independence of other cultures.

Many of us think of November 5th as Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, commemorating the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

What about the non-English speaking world?

In Dominica, today is Community Service Day, a holiday that marks the national clean-up operation that follows the country’s Independence Day celebrations.

In Israel, it’s Aliyah Day School Observance, commemorating the first entry of the Jewish people into Israel.

And in Panama, it’s Colon Day.

This holiday has nothing to do with digestion and nothing to do with grammar. Colon Day celebrates the day in 1903 when the people of Colon, a small coastal town, repelled a Colombian advance on Panama City. Without this, Panama might not have survived as an independent country.

Today Panama’s four million people share their territory with jungles that cover 40% of the country. The jungles are home to tropical plants and animals that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. The people include seven indigenous groups speaking a wide range of dialects. In addition, immigrants from Jamaica, St Lucia, China, the USA, Britain and the Middle East have infused the country with their languages. Spanish is the official language of Panama but people will be saying Happy Colon Day in more than one tongue today.

It’s a useful reminder for English speakers that not everyone celebrates what we celebrate and not everyone speaks the language we speak. Yes, we should enjoy our firework displays and our bonfires tonight, but if we want to reach out beyond our borders there are other cultures and languages to consider. If we let them in, they’ll teach us and enrich us. Colon Day isn’t about fireworks or bonfires. It’s about recognising and respecting the independence of others. It’s about speaking to the world.


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