By: Chanachon “Nam” Boonphakdee
With Columbus Day fast approaching on the 9 th October, it seems appropriate to review some facts about this celebrated holiday,
and to extension, Christopher Columbus himself. Without further ado, here are a few “fun facts” about Columbus Day.
Fun fact # 1: Most people think that Christopher Columbus was one of the few people of his time that believed the world is
round. In reality, the “round-Earth” belief was widely accepted way before Columbus’ time, it’s just that no one knew the
existence of the Americas yet.
Fun fact # 2: Contrary to popular belief, Christopher Columbus was NOT the first European to reach the Americas. That honor
would go to Leif Erikson who led a Viking expedition to set up a colony in Newfoundland back in the 10 th century AD, about 500
years before Columbus set out on his famous voyage.
Fun fact # 3: Columbus made a total of 4 voyages to the Americas. The first voyage aimed to find a short cut from Europe to
East Asia via the Atlantic Ocean. He ran dead-smack into the Bahamas instead. The second voyage was to establish colonies on
the territories Columbus scouted out on his previous visit. The third voyage was to confirm the existence of a continent just south
of the Bahamas (known now as South America). The fourth, and final voyage, was set out in order to find a route to the Indian
Ocean. He failed and got stranded on Jamaica for a year before he and his men got rescued and returned to Spain.
Fun fact # 4: Christopher Columbus was granted governorship over the island of Hispaniola upon returning to Spain after his 1 st
voyage. Upon arrival as governor and managed to set up a colony there, he forced the natives to go out and find gold (because
Columbus promised a lot of gold to the Colonists). However, since there was little gold on the island, Columbus had to resort to
slave trading in order to cover the promise. The result? A 90 percent decrease of the native population. Due to this (along with
many other causes) Columbus was tried in court whose case was not resolved until the late 1700s.
Fun fact# 5: Despite being a very famous (and influential) figure in modern history, there are no accurate depictions of
Christopher Columbus. Yup, that’s right, there are no historically accurate portraits of the famous explorer. Most scholars agree
that all portraits of Christopher Columbus has no historical value.
Fun fact #6: The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization that is named in Christopher’s honor. The group aims to provide
aid to Catholic immigrants, provide charity services and defend Catholicism. Founded in 1882, the organization now has almost 2
million active members in its ranks all across the globe.
Fun fact #7: Columbus Day goes by many names across the world. In Latin America, it is known as "Día de la Raza" (Day of the
Race), "Día de la Hispanidad" and "Fiesta Nacional" in Spain, “Día de las Américas” (Day of the Americas) in Belize and
Uruguay, “Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural” (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, and “ Giornata
Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo” or “Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo” in Italy.
Fun fact #8: Columbus Day was first celebrated in New York in 1792, though, it was just parades and religious ceremonies to
celebrated Columbus’ landings. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison encouraged Americans to commemorate the 400 th
anniversary of the landings through patriotic festivities, but it was not yet a national holiday. That changed in 1932 when President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, under pressure from various religious groups and cults, declared Columbus Day as a national holiday. He
also changed the celebration date from October 12 th to the second Monday of October, which continues on even to this day.
Fun fact #9: Despite being largely celebrated, some groups oppose celebrating Columbus day. This is due to the fact that the
landings wreaked havoc on the local indigenous natives because of the diseases they contracted from the new comers. Studies
have shown that in many places with European colonization, local native population plummeted by 90 percent, some were even
completely wiped out with no descendants.
Thus, many “alternative” days to Columbus Day have sprung up. In Venezuela, Dìa de la “Resistencia Indìgena” (Day of
Indigenous Resistance) to recognize native peoples and their experience. Several U.S. cities and states have also replaced
Columbus Day with alternative days of remembrance; examples include Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day, South Dakota’s
Native American Day and Hawaii’s Discoverer’s Day, which commemorates the arrival of the Polynesian settlers.
Fun fact #10: The biggest Columbus Day parades are held at New York City annually. It has been a tradition for the New Yorkers
as they prepare the streets for bigger and grander parades every year, with millions of spectators and over half a million
participating. The parade will include floats, bands, and ethnic representative groups, all to celebrate their American heritage. The
parade will be held on October 9 th 2017 so if you plan to visit New York City around that time, make sure you stay and watch the
So there you have it. 10 fun facts about Columbus and Columbus Day. Hopefully this was informational and you learned
something new that you didn’t already. Hope you have a nice Columbus Day!