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Columbus Day: History, Trivia & Fun Facts

Here’s your first fun fact for Columbus Day: If you don’t have today off, you should! But, you probably don’t because it’s a bit of an outlier as a federal holiday.</br></br>Really, do any of us know much at all about Columbus Day – besides that it has something to do with Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492?</br></br>Stay tuned and we’ll dish you the highlights.</br></br><strong>Columbus Day: A Brief History</strong></br></br>Colorado gets the credit for whipping up the holiday back in 1906, but it didn’t hit the federal level until 1937.</br></br>Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, it didn’t have much to do with Coloradans at large. After all, why would they celebrate a man who never really touched U.S. soil (he stopped in the Bahamas) and definitely wasn’t American (Italian)?</br></br>Basically, it was part of <a title="NPR" href="http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/10/14/232120128/how-columbus-sailed-into-u-s-history-thanks-to-italians" target="_blank">a PR campaign for Italian-American immigrants</a>, who up to that point were having a pretty rough go of it in the U.S. Facing harsh discrimination, President Benjamin Harrison called for national observance of Columbus’ achievements in 1892 as a way to associate the Italian legacy with American patriotism.</br></br>Eight years later, Colorado took the lead with the help of Italian-American Angelo Noce and Senator Casimiro Barela. A few short years after that several other states hopped aboard the Santa Maria of celebration.</br></br><strong>Columbus Day: Observance Optional</strong></br></br>Given the history, what’s surprising is that Columbus Day kept its grip as a holiday at all. And, it has lost ground in some states: Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota don’t recognize it, leaving local bankers and postal workers salty indeed.</br></br>Other states, like California and Texas, have nixed the day as a paid holiday for government employees – again causing some measure of disappointment.</br></br>And then there are the states that shrug, say whatever, and soldier right on through to Halloween with nary a blink of an eye.</br></br><strong>Columbus Day: Other Things Named 'Columbus'</strong></br></br>Columbus Day isn’t without its controversy. Some argue there’s nothing to celebrate because the explorer stopped short of North America, and others say he was already getting enough press before the holiday was created, anyway. Some examples:</br></br>- Columbia University (founded in 1754)</br>- District of Columbia (founded in 1790</br>- Columbia River (named in 1792)</br></br>So, either way / it’s safe to say / Columbus Day / is here to stay / so we may as well enjoy it!
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