Happy Monday! Today in North America, we are celebrating two holidays. Canadians are celebrating their Thanksgiving, while those in the states are celebrating Columbus Day. Most people think that Christopher Columbus discovered America in the Niña,thePinta and the Santa Mariaand also – while he was at it – proved the earth wasn’t flat. Not true, according to historians.
Kids in school have long been taught that when Columbus set sail in 1492 to find a new route to the East Indies, it was feared he would fall off the edge of the earth because people thought the planet was flat.
However, as early as 6th century B.C., Pythagoras — later followed by Aristotle and Euclid — wrote about earth as a sphere, and historians say there’s no doubt that the educated in Columbus’s day knew quite well that the earth was round. Columbus, in fact, owned a copy of Ptolemy’s book, written 1,300 years before Columbus set sail. The Sphere, written in the 1200s, was required reading in European universities in the 1300s and beyond.
What about the names of the ships? Experts say that Niña, Pinta andSanta Maria areprobably not the correct names. The Santa Maria was La Gallega, meaning The Galician. The Niña is now believed to be a nickname for the Santa Clara, and Pinta also was probably a nickname.
The funniest fact is that Columbus didn’t “discover” America. In fact, he never set foot in North America. During four separate trips, starting in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands, including the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. He also explored Central and South American coasts. But he didn’t reach North America, which was already inhabited by Native Americans. You may remember that it is believed that Norse explorer Leif Erikson reached Canada perhaps 500 years before Columbus was born, and there are some who believe that Phoenician sailors crossed the Atlantic much earlier than that.
Knowing all of this, Columbus doesn’t seem like a man we would celebrate. He committed atrocities against native peoples on the islands and decimated their populations while also terrorizing Spanish colonists, according to the biography Columbus by Laurence Bergreen. If all of this is true – and it appears to be – why do we have a special day to celebrate Christopher Columbus? It’s a tradition started in 1792 to honor Italian-American heritage. Then in 1937, President Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 to be Columbus Day, a national holiday. It was later changed to the second Monday in October.
For various reasons, many places have changed the name of the holiday. Berkeley, California, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 to honor the original inhabitants of the islands where Columbus landed. In 1989, South Dakota started calling the holiday Native American Day. Alabama celebrates a combination of Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day, and Hawaii calls it Discovery Day.
Something to Think About:
With all of that being said, why do many Americans celebrate Columbus Day? He was an ambitious sailor with an insatiable thirst for exploration. His adventures and early travels sparked exploration to many who marked a time that forever changed the world. Plus, it’s a great time of year for a three-day holiday, allowing us to enjoy the autumn foliage. Next year for Columbus Day weekend, let’s celebrate all of the people who should be celebrated on this date. You decide what you will call it, but let’s keep the tradition of a long holiday weekend in the states!
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Words of Wisdom:
“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” – Andre Gide.
“Riches don’t make a man rich, they only make him busier.” – Christopher Columbus
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert Kennedy
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John Shedd