Dear Crabby, Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day?

Dear Crabby,

I received an ‘urgent’ call from my daughter the other day saying my husband and I have to come to our granddaughter’s Christopher Columbus school play. Now I know Columbus discovered America, and that’s great, but since when did he warrant having an afternoon dedicated to children singing and reciting in his honor? And the more I think about it I wonder, just why do we celebrate Columbus Day anyway?


Patriotically Confused

Dear Patriotically Confused,

I think having to learn about Christopher Columbus is considered a rite of passage by our education system. You know what I remember about good ole’ Chris? When I told my dad all the things we were learning in school about Columbus, he smiled and said, ‘In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue… now wasn’t that a silly thing to do?’ DearCrabby

Well, as it turns out, Columbus wasn’t so silly after all. And while there’s been plenty of debate about what Columbus actually discovered; he definitely got the ball rolling for America. In that spirit of coming to a new land, many Italian-Americans choose to observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage. In fact, it was a first generation Italian by the name of Angelo Noce from Colorado that lobbied for Columbus Day to become a state holiday in 1906. It took a few more decades, but finally in 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made October 12 (or the second Monday of the month) an official federal holiday called Columbus Day. Interestingly, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota are the only states that do not recognize Columbus Day at all. Party poopers.

I guess there’s more to this holiday than meets the eye after all. As for why we celebrate it, well, try to imagine what our lives would be like if Chris hadn’t decided to go exploring. What if he had decided to stay home in Spain and take up gardening? Would there even be an America? Probably, but then again, it wouldn’t necessarily be quite the same great country we have today. So, go to your granddaughter’s school play and enjoy celebrating the man who dared to try something new. And then treat everyone to gelato afterwards.

Sincerely, Dear Crabby

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