Tidbistories: Columbus Day
What does a school kid, postal worker,
and banker have in common on Columbus Day?
They all enjoy having the day off from school and work!
But, have you ever wondered why?
Columbus Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October. Schools, post offices, and most federal offices are closed that day in honor of a holiday that doesn’t have any decorations, gift exchanges, or special candy made in it’s honor.
Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, made a total of four voyages to the “New World” during his lifetime. He was hired by the King and Queen of Spain to discover and establish trade routes from Spain to the East Indies, a location known for spices and silk.
At the time, merchants traveled great distances across land or around the continent of Africa to reach this part of the world. After time, the land route had become very dangerous. The sea route took a long time, not to mention it had a great deal of danger too. Pirates didn’t make life too easy for any seafaring merchant. New trade routes had to be established.
Christopher Columbus believed he would be able to reach this land of riches in a shorter amount of time if he sailed west to get to the East Indies. Most educated people in Columbus’s day did believe the earth was round-contrary to the myth that most people believed the earth was flat. What nobody knew was how big the earth actually was or that there was undiscovered land to the west.
On August 3rd, 1492, Christopher Columbus, his crew, and their three ships-the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria-set sail to discover new trade routes. Much to their surprise, they landed in the Bahamas on October 12th, 1492. What a discovery!
Between 1492 and 1503, the four journeys Columbus made helped him claim ownership of this land for Spain. This discovery of the new land spread across Europe. The race to claim ownership of this “New World” soon launched with each country sending their own explorers on a quest.
Because of this discovery by Christopher Columbus on October 12th, 1492, we now celebrate Columbus Day in honor of his discovery. In 1937, our federal government declared Columbus Day to be an official federal holiday. At the time, October 12th was designated as the date when it is celebrated. It wasn’t until 1970 when the second Monday of October became the date the holiday is actually observed.
However, not every state in our nation celebrates Columbus Day. There are four states, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and South Dakota, who do not observe this holiday. There are many people who oppose this day as a day to be celebrated. If you visit an online resource website or your local library, you can discover why some people think it should not be celebrated.
Until then, enjoy your day off from school…that is if you don’t live in Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, or South Dakota!