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Columbus Day Fun Facts

By Amanda Valentovic

Special to the Chronicle

To most students the second Monday of October is just a day to sleep in. Columbus Day has more historical significance than most people realize. Here are 10 fun facts about the holiday:

  1.  Even though Columbus Day has been celebrated since colonial times, Colorado was the first state to make it an official holiday in 1906. It was made a federal holiday in 1937.

  2. The oldest Columbus Day celebration dates back to 1868 when the first annual parade was held in San Francisco.

  3. Three states do not observe Columbus Day: Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota. Hawaii instead celebrates Discovery Day, commemorating the discovery of the islands by the Polynesians. South Dakota has a state holiday called Native Americans’ Day on the same day.

  4. Christopher Columbus did not actually land on the mainland of America during any of his travels. His first journey ended on Watling Island, a part of the Bahamas.

  5. Columbus’s goal was never to prove the earth was not flat. Ancient Greeks including Pythagoras and Aristotle had already guessed the world was round. In 1492 the majority of the Old World population knew it was impossible to sail off of the edge.

  6. Before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to support Columbus’s voyage to the New World three other countries turned him down: England, France and Portugal.

  7. While the Santa Maria was the official name of one of Columbus’s three famous ships, the Nina and Pinta were nicknames for the other two. The Nina’s real name was the Santa Clara and was nicknamed after its owner Juan Nino. The Pinta’s official name is unknown, but “pinta” is Spanish for “the painted one.”

  8. The Santa Maria was steered into a coral reef off the coast of present-day Haiti on Christmas Eve 1492. Columbus was on the flagship and he had to return to Spain on the Nina.

  9. In the decade following his notorious expedition Columbus returned to the New World three more times, landing him in the Caribbean Islands as well as Central and South America.

  10. When he died Columbus’s body was buried, unearthed and reburied from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to Valladolid, Spain. Today he is believed to be buried in Seville, Spain.


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