Columbus Day is celebrated on the 2nd Monday in the month of October. It is one of the ten U.S. federal holidays. Columbus day celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing on the Americas on October 12, 1492.
Columbus Day is celebrated in the United States, the Islands of the Americas, Spain, and Italy. In Spanish-speaking nations, Columbus Day is called Dia de la Raza, meaning Day of the People or Day of the Race.
Do you want to learn more about Christopher Columbus? Check out more Christopher Columbus facts for kids below!
Who was Christopher Columbus?
Christopher Columbus was an explorer. He is credited for discovering America and other lands.
Christopher Columbus was born in Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, Italy. The exact date of his birth is unknown but is believed to be between August 25th-October 31st, 1451.
When Christopher Columbus was young, he worked with his father, a weaver, but that wasn’t his passion. He always wanted to be a sailor.
Christopher Columbus started sailing as a teenager. He studied geography and listened to stories from other sailors.
At age 25 he was sailing around the Mediterranean when his boat was attacked by the French and set on fire.
Christopher Columbus was able to escape and swim to shore. He ended up in Portugal.
In Portugal, he met Dona Felipa Moniz de Perestrello. He later married her. The couple had one son named Diego.
While in Portugal, Christopher Columbus and his brother ran a shop that sold maps to sailors.
At that time, it took a long time for Europeans to get certain goods. Europeans traveled East to get to Asia.
They had to travel far across the Mediterranean Sea and through deserts and mountains. It was a long and hard journey. Christopher Columbus felt that there had to be a better way.
Christopher Columbus wanted to find a better route to the East (Asia-India, China, and Japan).
He believed that if he traveled West, he would find a shorter and easier route.
He thought that it would be easier for Europeans to obtain spices, jewels, and silks for trade if he found a quicker route.
The Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria
In 1484 Columbus asked King John II of Portugal for ships and a crew of men to travel across the Atlantic in search of a quicker route to Asia. He was turned down, but that didn’t stop him.
Christopher Columbus would not give up and eventually, in 1492, King Ferdinand and his wife, Queen Isabella of Spain decided to fund Columbus’ trip and gave him ships and a crew.
He was given three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and a crew of 90 men.
Columbus set sail on August 3rd, 1492, from Palos Spain.
Columbus calculated that Asia was 2,4000 miles West of Portugal however, he miscalculated because it is actually 10,000 miles away.
The New World
On October 12th, 1492, Columbus landed on a small Bahamas island. He named it San Salvador.
The native people of the island came to the shore to see the ships. Columbus thought he had reached the Indies, so he called the people Indians.
This land Columbus discovered would soon be called the New World by Europeans.
This New World Columbus discovered was also ready home to thousands of native people, also called indigenous people.
Columbus went on and continued his journey he landed on Hispaniola which is known today as the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He also landed in Cuba which he believed was the mainland of Asia. He also landed on the American mainland.
To prove to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that he found the land, he brought back some gold, pineapples, and “Indians” that he enslaved.
Columbus left approximately 43 men behind on the new land and set sail back to Spain.
Only the Nina and Pinta made it back to Spain. On the way back the Santa Maria was wrecked in a crash on Christmas Day in 1492 and never made the trip back to Spain. Christopher Columbus was not in Santa Maria.
Columbus made three more trips back to the New World.
On Columbus’s second trip he brought horses introducing the animal to the New World.
On his four voyages to the New World, Columbus discovered different Caribbean Islands, the Gulf of Mexico, South and Central America, believing the entire time that he had made it to Asia.
Columbus never stepped foot in North America. He discovered islands in the Caribbean and land in South and Central America but never stepped foot on North America or what is our 50 states today.
Columbus died in 1506 in Spain. He died never realizing that did not make it to Asia.
He was buried in Spain, but his body was dug up and moved several times. The current whereabouts of Columbus remain is unknown.
Celebrating Columbus Day
Colorado was the first state to celebrate Columbus Day in the early 1900s.
Columbus Day was declared a national holiday by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.
Columbus Day was originally celebrated on October 12th. It was moved to the 2nd Monday in October 1971.
In the U.S, Columbus Day is now celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October.
Not every state celebrates Columbus Day. Many states changed Columbus Day to Native American Day or Indigenous People Day to celebrate the people who already lived in the Americas.
Columbus Day is often referred to as celebrating Italian culture and Italian American heritage.
Some states have a Columbus Day parade.
Columbus Day is sometimes called Discovery Day, Dia de la Americas, Dia de las Hispanidad. and Dia de la Raza.
The Poem 1492, written by Jean Marzollo, is a poem many school children hear to learn about Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America. Please read the poem below
“In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know.
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day, they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12, their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.”