The Day Europe Met America
Columbus Day is celebrated annually on the second Monday in October. This year, on October 12, it falls exactly 523 years after Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas, after sailing across the Atlantic for 70 days and nights.
We have been celebrating Columbus Day at least since 1792. It has been a legal holiday since 1892 and became a federal holiday in 1937 by FDR, in response to urging from the Knights of Columbus.
The sailor from Genoa, Italy, and sponsored by Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, made the first official discovery of the New World by Europeans since the Vikings colonized Newfoundland and Greenland in the 10th century. Contrary to what is commonly believed, most educated Europeans knew the Earth was round at the time, but what was discovered as a result of the two months-long expedition was the Americas, comprising the other half of the Earth, and its inhabitants. If there was only the Atlantic Ocean, Columbus’ voyage would actually have landed him in Asia, his original goal. In spite of this, the vast majority of Europeans needed more concrete proof the Genoan mariner and his fleet aboard their vessels, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria would not fall off the edge of the world beyond Portugal – and this Columbus proved.
Many cities and organizations sponsor parades and banquets celebrating Columbus’ discovery of the New World, and also celebrate Italian culture with music, food, and costumes.
Columbus Day is celebrated throughout the US with a three-day weekend, in Italy and Spain, and even in parts of Canada. On Fifth Avenue, there will be 35,000 marchers and over 100 groups, including bands, floats and contingents and nearly one million spectators during the Columbus Day Parade, the world’s largest celebration of Italian-American culture and the important contributions Italian- Americans have made to the United States.
Locally, the annual Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens (FIAO) parade will be held on Saturday, October 10. The parade starts at Kaufman Astoria Studios, 34-12 36th St. in Astoria. Participants will start assembling at 11 am, depart at noon and march through the neighborhood until they reach Columbus Triangle on Astoria Boulevard and 31st Street.
We have Columbus to thank for introducing one half of the world to the other – creating unheard-of opportunities for his fellow Europeans and continuing to for people from every other part of the world to this day. As we commemorate the event which made all our lives what – and where – they are today, we wish you all a happy Columbus Day!