9 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Columbus Day
Date posted: Monday, October 8, 2012
Did he ever actually make it here?
Every year, on the second Monday of October, the United States is divided into two camps: those of us who crankily get ready for work, and those of us who stay at home, lounging in pajamas—if, that is, we haven’t indulged in a long weekend vacation. Accounting for the split is the fact that not all businesses recognize Columbus Day (actually, neither do all states); perhaps the reason is that they don’t understand what, exactly, they are celebrating. The holiday’s not even on a fixed date! What did Columbus ever do for us, anyway?
Here are 9 things you probably don’t know about Columbus Day. (If you know them, we apologize.)
1. Holiday Trajectory
Late 1800s: Celebration of Italian-American heritage.
1906: Official state holiday in Colorado.
1937: Federal holiday, as declared by FDR.
2. Day/Date Mix-up
Columbus arrived in the “New World” on October 12, 1492, but since 1971 we have celebrated his glorious arrival not on its actual date but on the second Monday of the month. Reasons for this remain unclear.
3. Opting Out
Hawaii: Commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii instead, calling the second Monday of October “Discoverer’s Day.” In a strange twist, the state does not recognize this holiday, and schools are open for business.
South Dakota: Does recognize it as a state holiday, but calls it “Native Americans Day” (several counties across the country, including Berkeley, CA, also do this).
U.S. Virgin Islands: Celebrate today as “Puerto Rico Friendship Day.”
4. Canadian Corollary
The second Monday of October is the same day that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. How bizarre!
The legend that Columbus set out to prove the earth was round (which was something everyone already knew) first appeared in “The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus,” a four-volume chronicle written by American myth-maker Washington Irving in 1828.
In school, we learn that Columbus’s ships were called the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. In actuality, they were La Santa Clara, La Pinta, and La Santa Gallega. The names we know today are nicknames that were created by those ship’s crews (something to do with prostitutes).
Only the “Niña” and the Pinta actually completed the voyage. The “Santa Maria de la Inmaculada Concepcion” (originally La Santa Gallega) crashed before reached the “New World.”
8. Explorer Gaffe
Columbus never actually set foot in North America.
Until his deathbed, he believed that he had landed in Asia.[pinit]