The Lost Holiday
I nearly forgot about Columbus Day — in fact, it was observed yesterday. And the only reason it came to mind was because of advertising for Columbus Day Sales.
How could this holiday get lost in the shuffle? Columbus discovered the Americas — right?
A little research tells us:
Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, which occurred on Oct. 12, 1492, as an official holiday.
The event is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Da de la Raza (Day of the Race) in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Da de la Hispanidad, Fiesta National in Spain, Da del Respecto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina and as Da de las Americas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay.
These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century. Columbus Day is a public holiday in many parts of the United States, but is not observed or is not a holiday in some states.
Columbus Day became a federal holiday — In April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus Day. — Another source says Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937. Since 1971, the holiday has been observed on the second Monday in October.
Controversy surrounds this holiday because, “There is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had ‘discovered’ the Americas thousands of years before.”
And here’s another controversy: “the European settlement in the Americas led to the demise of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples.”
Here is a little history lesson. We all remember the phrase: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Facts about Columbus’ ships were found on an education website:
Aug 3, 1492 — The Nia, Pinta and the Santa Mara sail from Palos, Spain.
Aug 12 — The ships reach the Canary Islands and stay there until Sept 6.
Sept 9 — Sailing westward, the ships loose sight of land at nightfall.
Sept 30 — Ships complete 3 weeks travel with no sight of land. This is the longest journey made with no sight of land.
Oct 7 — A mistaken shout of “Land Ho” brings great disappointment.
Oct 10 — Sailors are on the point of mutiny, but agree to sail on for 2 or 3 more days.
Oct 12 — Columbus discovers America when land is sighted. He goes ashore on San Salvador (Watlings Island) in the Bahamas.
Dec 24 — Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Mara is wrecked off Cap Hatien.
Jan 16, 1493 — The Nia and Pinta begin their homeward voyage. Columbus is aboard the Nia.
Feb 8 — The 2 ships are hit by strong headwinds.
Feb 12 — A storm threatens the Nia.
Feb 13-14 — The 2 ships are separated by the storm
Feb 15 — The Nia arrives at Santa Mara island in the Azores and waits 10 days before leaving without the Pinta.
March 3 — The Nia arrives at Lisbon and stays there 10 days.
March 15 — The Nia returns to its home port, Palos. The Pinta arrives there a few hours later.
Here’s one final bit of controversy on Columbus Day: Should Columbus be honored for discovering the United States, as he only went as far as some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America?
Truly, Columbus Day really is quite interesting.