Why We Should Celebrate Columbus Day:

• Columbus Day recognizes the achievements of a great Renaissance explorer who founded the first permanent European settlement in the New World. The arrival of Columbus in 1492 marks the beginning of recorded history in America and opened relations between the Americas and the rest of the world.

Columbus Day celebrates the beginning of cultural exchange between America and Europe. After Columbus, millions of European immigrants brought their art, music, science, medicine, philosophy and religious principles to America. These contributions have helped shape the United States and include Greek democracy, Roman law, Judeo-Christian ethics and the belief that all men are created equal.

Columbus Day is one of America’s oldest holidays. The tradition of observing Columbus Day dates back to the 18th century in this country. It was first celebrated on October 12, 1792, when the New York Society of Tammany honored Columbus on the 300th anniversary of his first voyage.

Columbus Day is a patriotic holiday. In fact, the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 in honor of the 400th anniversary of his first voyage. That year, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day a legal holiday.

• The United States has long admired Columbus. America has more monuments to Columbus than any nation in the world, according to the Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia. These include a Columbus statue in Providence, R.I., cast by Frederic Auguste Bertholdi, who created the Statue of Liberty, and one in New York City, createdby one of the six Piccirilli brothers who carved the Lincoln Memorial.

The United States has a significant collection of Columbus memorabilia, including his desk, papers, and the cross he used to claim the New World for Spain. These are in the Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.

• In 1905, Colorado became the first state to declare Columbus Day a holiday. In 1971, Columbus Day became a federal holiday in all 50 states after Congress passed a law declaring the second Monday in October Columbus Day.

• Columbus Day also commemorates the arrival on these shores of more than 5 million Italians beginning in 1880. Today, the children and grandchildren of these early Italian Americans constitute the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Christopher Columbus: Biography

1451 - Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) is born in Genoa to Domenico Colombo and his wife, Susanna Fontanarossa. They were weavers who lived above their small shop. At that time, Genoa was a naval power and independent republic that rivaled Venice and traded with the Orient. In 1453, two years after Columbus’ birth, Constantinople fell to the Moslems, cutting off Europe’s eastward trade routes to the Orient and making the finding of a westward route imperative.

1465 - Columbus takes his first sea voyage at age 14. Later he studies navigation in Greece and mapmaking in Portugal, where he lives for nine years in a colony of Genoese businessmen and shippers. He also travels to Africa, Ireland, England and Iceland.

1479 - Columbus marries Felipa Perestrello y Moniz (1479), has a son, Diego, and is widowed (1480). [Later, he has another son, Fernando, with Beatriz Enriquez de Harana, whom he never marries.]

1483 - Columbus presents his plan to reach the Orient by sailing west across the Atlantic to the kings of Portugal, England, France and Spain. Only Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella accept his offer, but it takes Columbus six years (1486-1492) to convince them to underwrite his explorations.

1492 - On August 3, Columbus sails from Palos, Spain. On October 12 at two o’clock in the morning, land issighted.ItwasanislandwhichhenamesSanSalvador(HolySavior). Deeplyreligious,Columbus believes one of his missions is to bring Christianity to the New World.

1502 - Columbus takes his last voyage across the ocean. He crossed the Atlantic four times in 10 years: 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. On his first voyage he lands on Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which he calls “Hispaniola,” where he founds the first permanent European settlement in the Western Hemisphere. On his third voyage, his political enemies bring him back to Spain in chains, but the Queen absolves him of any blame. On his fourth voyage, he was shipwrecked for nearly a year on what is today Jamaica.

1506 - Columbus dies in Valladolid, Spain, on May 20 at age 54. He insists on being buried with the chains he wore when he was brought back to Spain, following his third voyage. No one is sure where he is buried. Some scholars believe his remains are in the Lighthouse of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic while others believe they are in Spain in the Cathedral of Seville.

Prepared by The Order Sons of Italy in America in Washington D.C. - www.osia.org