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Many people know the general details surrounding Columbus Day. They know it's a federal holiday and named after the explorer Christopher Columbus, but may not know the finer details. Since the time Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, the meaning surrounding Columbus Day as well as its celebrations have evolved. The following highlights the trek this holiday has taken and what Columbus Day means today.
Columbus Discovers the Americas (1492)
Columbus Day originated as a result of Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas. Intending to reach China and India, he mistakenly landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings had landed in Greenland and Newfoundland centuries prior. Columbus later discovered Cuba and Hispaniola during his expedition. After the initial discovery, and still thinking he had found Asia, Columbus returned to the Americas multiple times. On his third trip he realized his discovery was not Asia but a land previously unknown to the Europeans.
Columbus Day is First Celebrated (1792)
Columbus Day took a while to be formally celebrated. The first Columbus Day celebration took place when New York's Columbian Order organization, or Tammany Hall, hosted a special event. This event was held to honor the 300th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. From that time forward, annual events were held throughout the country by Catholic and Italian communities to honor Columbus.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt Proclaims Columbus Day a National Holiday (1937)
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed that Columbus Day would be celebrated nationwide. This was likely due to the continual urging by the Knights of Columbus, a prominent Catholic organization with great influence. It was initially decided that Columbus Day would be celebrated every October 12. However, in 1971, the holiday date was changed and Columbus Day would be celebrated on the second Monday in October going forward.
Columbus Day of Today
Columbus Day is seen in a different light by many individuals today. In fact, there has been much controversy related to celebrating Christopher Columbus during this national holiday. In response, some states have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. These states include Alaska, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Oregon. Cities have also followed suit, including Los Angeles, Denver, and Phoenix.
No matter what the name may be, one should keep in mind what this holiday signifies. It commemorates the discovery of the Americas. And, it's the ultimate reason behind why we celebrate this day as a country.