What is Columbus Day? According to History.com, the holiday not only celebrates Christopher Columbus’ landing in the new world, but it's also a celebration of Italian-American heritage.
Columbus landed in the New World on October 12, 1492. It was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century, but didn't become a federal holiday until 1937, according to History.com.
Celebration & Controversy
The first Columbus Day celebration was held in New York City, and Columbus Day has been celebrated annually since 1920.
Throughout its history, Columbus Day, and the man who inspired it, have generated controversy, and many alternatives to the holiday have appeared in recent years. South Dakota and some tribal governments celebrate Native American Day, while some municipalities celebrate Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day.
However, many of Italian descent continue to celebrate the day and their heritage. There are also many parades, including one of the largest, which is happening in New York City today.
There are also many service and non-profit organziations that have events honoring Italian heritage and Columbus.
Facts & Tidbits
There are all also sorts of interesting facts about Christopher Columbus.
He was born on October 31, 1451, in the Republic of Genoa, Italy. He was the son of a weaver.
He was nearly killed in 1476 while sailing as part of a commercial fleet when French privateers off the coast of Portugal attacked his ship. They set his vessel on fire, and he was forced to swim to shore and make his way to Lisbon, Portugal.
In Portugal he married Felipa Perestrello. Approximately in 1480 the couple had a son, Diego. His wife died soon afterward, and Columbus moved to Spain.
A second son, Fernando, was born out of wedlock in 1488 to Beatriz Enriquez de Arana.
Columbus was seeking a new and safer way to reach India and China when he came up with the idea to travel across the Atlantic. He estimated the Earth to be a sphere roughly 63 percent of its actual size.
On Aug. 3, 1492, Columbus sailed on Santa Maria, with the Pinta and the Niña along side, and 36 days later Columbus reached what's now known as the Bahamas, claiming it for Spain.
They kept sailing, and found the islands now known as the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Then the Santa Maria ran aground.
They salvaged what they could and built the settlement on Villa de la Navidad, or Christmas Town, using part of the ship. Thirty-nine men stayed behind to occupy the settlement. Convinced they reached Asia, Columbus set sail for home.
Columbus reached Central America on his third voyage in 1502.