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Why We Celebrate Columbus Day

FDR designated the day a holiday in 1937.

“In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” is a line anyone who has attended elementary school should be familiar with as the poem taught to students to help teach the history of explorer Christopher Columbus.

Every year in October in the United States, Americans celebrate “Columbus Day,” the day Columbus arrived in what was considered the New World before it was renamed the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492 while he was searching for a water route from Europe to Asia.

According to history.com, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1937 at the urging of the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus. Columbus Day has been observed on the second Monday of October since 1971.

The first Columbus Day celebration was held in New York in 1792, history.com states, on the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival.

Columbus Day has been both celebrated and criticized since as far back as the 19th century due to the devastating impact Columbus’ arrival had on the Native American populations that lived in the New World before the land was colonized.

“European settlers brought a host of infectious diseases, including smallpox and influenza, that decimated indigenous populations; warfare between Native Americans and the colonists claimed many lives as well,” according to history.com.

To learn more about Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day, visit history.com.

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