For citizens of America, Columbus Day could be considered one of the first official holidays meant for people of the New World. Celebrating the historic voyage of Italian navigator and explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492, whereby contact was established between Europe and the Americas, Columbus Day has grown over the past few centuries from a sparsely celebrated, unofficial holiday to a recognized commendation of this historic travel across the Atlantic.
For the United States, Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1937, celebrated each year in October on the second Monday of the month. However, not all U.S. states celebrate this holiday. Hawaii and South Dakota both abstain from commemorating Columbus’s voyage, instead commemorating the indigenous people’s that his voyage invariably displaced.
Columbus Day has attracted a great deal of heat in the past several decades because it celebrates a controversial event, the colonization of the Americas by European settlers. While a great many people living in the Americas wouldn’t be doing so if their ancestors hadn’t relocated, it is true that horrific abuses were conducted against the indigenous peoples of America by European settlers.
However, the colonization of the Americas, despite the blatant cruelty heaped upon those who had already called these twin continents home, is still a cause to celebrate. It isn’t so much a reason to celebrate conquest or the subjugation of unsettled expanses. Columbus Day is a commemoration of the human spirit in the face of the adversity of crossing the Atlantic.
These sailors set off into the unknown, expecting to circumnavigate the globe and reach Asia. Instead, these unwitting explorers uncovered a whole new landmass, unknown to the people of Europe. Their determination to set off towards an unknown horizon is what makes Columbus Day a holiday worth celebrating. The challenge is for people today to reconcile this great human accomplishment in the face of a very regrettable aftermath. Observers of Columbus Day must mourn for those lost voices while still taking pride in the ingenuity of a few sailors aboard the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.