Columbus Day Observance

Posted by: Oksana Kluchko, Journalist/Embassy Community Member

Portrait of Christopher Columbus by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio
Portrait of Christopher Columbus by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio

One can argue that Columbus Day has come to symbolize the power of thinking “outside the box.” In Christopher Columbus’ day and age, “outside the box” meant thinking the world was round. In the fifteenth century, despite all the advances in learning, science, and contact with other world cultures, most people still believed the world was flat.

The Italian adventurer Christopher Columbus was bold enough to argue otherwise. Failing to convince his Italian sovereign, as well as the kings of Portugal and England, Christopher Columbus was persistent. He finally convinced the Queen of Spain to finance an expedition of great importance. At that time, spice merchants were in search of an easier route to Asia. The most common route was sailing completely around Africa, past the Cape of Good Hope, before continuing eastward.

Columbus’ argument was simple – if the world is indeed round, then logic dictated that sailing directly west would lead to the rich treasures of India and Asia. Such a discovery would bring new opportunities of wealth to Spain. The Queen of Spain was so impressed with his argument that she promised him a 10% share of the wealth he brought to Spain as a result of his discoveries.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus and ninety men set sail on the flagship Santa Maria, with other ships, the Nina and the Pinta. After two months, the crew became increasing restless and almost threatened to mutiny. But Columbus appealed to them with promises of great wealth and on October 11th the crew of the Santa Maria sighted land off of a small island.

Christoper Columbus arrives in America
Christoper Columbus arrives in America. L. Prang & Co., Boston

Of course, when the men landed on what was actually off the coast of North America, they were bewildered. Expecting to be greeted by what they believed was a tribe from eastern India, they referred to these new found natives as “Indians.” When they learned from the natives that the island had no relation to India, Columbus and his men christened the island San Salvador and claimed it on behalf of Spain. The rest is history.

Interestingly, it was the Italian-American community in New York City that first initiated the observance of Columbus Day in the 1860s. Almost 80 years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially proclaimed Columbus Day as a national holiday.

2 thoughts on “Columbus Day Observance

  1. Just wrote an essay on Columbus and preached it. Used the dates of August 2nd, 1492 and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and August 3rd Columbus’ departure.

  2. 08 October, 2011
    The Window on America Center in Dnipropetrovsk.
    The part of the English Speaking club session was dedicated to the celebration of the Columbus Day in the USA. Across the United States people celebrate the day Columbus landed in America because it changed the course of history.
    We watched videos illustrating the life of Christopher Columbus, the history of the Columbus day Celebration in New York. In the discussion we mentioned the events that commemorated different anniversaries of the American continent discovery.
    “Columbus and the Discovery of America”, Imre Kiralfy’s “grand dramatic, operatic, and ballet spectacle,” is among the more elaborate tributes created for the 300th commemoration. The World’s Columbian Exposition, by far the most ambitious event planned for the celebration, opened in Chicago the summer of 1893. 1992 marked the 500th anniversary of the Columbus discovery. Ohio, planned ”AmeriFlora,” the first international floral and garden festival in the United States. Genoa, Italy, was having scholars compile everything Columbus, a Genoese home boy, ever wrote. Spain had a World’s Fair in Seville and sailed replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria across the Atlantic.
    The session was resumed with the discussion about the controversy of the Colombo’s role in history.
    The number of participants – 23 persons.
    http://woadnepr.blogspot.com/2011/10/columbus-day.html

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