UNITED STATES – On October 12, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus found land in what he thought to be eastern Asia. Months earlier, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain sent Columbus on a voyage to find a quicker route to China and India. Columbus initially mistook his discoveries—in present day Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola—for Asian islands, China, and Japan. Columbus then set up a Spanish colony in Hispaniola and made several trips between Spain and the colony for the next fifteen years. It was not until Columbus’s final voyage in 1506 that he realized he was not in Asia. He had in fact discovered the Americas, an entirely new land.

Three hundred years later, the Columbian Order, better known as Tammany Hall, held an event in New York to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Columbus’s initial voyage. This event was the first major celebration in honor of Columbus. Later, Italian and Catholic communities began to honor Columbus, as he was an Italian-born Catholic.

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison declared the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery as a day to “devote themselves to such exercises as may best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Columbus Day a national holiday in 1937. Columbus Day was initially set as October 12, the day Columbus first landed in the Americas. In 1971, Columbus Day was moved to the second Monday of every October.

Today, Americans celebrate Columbus Day by honoring Columbus himself and his Italian-American heritage with parades, celebrations, Italian cuisine, music, and costumes. Others celebrate Columbus Day by honoring Native Americans with traditional pow-wows, dance, and lessons.

Libby Renn, recently retired History department head at Sylacauga High School, added that Columbus’s landing was a pivotal moment in the world’s history. Countries in both the western and eastern hemispheres were immediately changed, with imperialistic nations racing to colonize new land and its resources.

Jack Wilbanks for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.