1 – It gives me a nostalgic, Fall holiday feeling because, growing up in what was arguably the best public school system in America, New York City’s from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, we had to learn about Christopher (Cristoforo) Columbus [1451 – 1506] and his romanticized voyage in addition to getting another day off from the new school year! First report cards, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving were on the horizon!

2 – Occurring a few days after the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, it reminds me of our collective cultural heritage as Americans.

3 – His voyage proved the earth is not flat! Imagine only knowing Europe, Asia and maybe Africa as the totality of the planet and then sailing east of your world, trying to find a short-cut to the Far East (the Orient) without knowing if you would fall off the edge into oblivion! That was the prevailing geography of Columbus’ era!! He was truly courageous.

4 – Now THAT’s Italian! Even though he set sail from Spain, Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Columbus Day is an Italian celebration! Among our earliest immigrants to “the melting pot”, they are one of my favorite nationalities and some of the coolest paisans who’ve given us pizza, pasta, romantic music and not to mention movies like The Godfather, gangsters, many streets named “Columbus” (like “Columbus Circle in NYC), and beautiful women like Sophia Loren! I recall an Italian girl named Marie from my first job at an A&P food store; she used to come in with her mom and I was the sixteen year old produce clerk weighing and bagging her melons, etc. If only I wasn’t so shy back then, I would have asked her to a movie and possibly changed my history – we definitely had some chemistry!

5 – Little Italy. There is one in every major city, but New York City’s is the most famous and where the food in the many restaurants and bars is off the chain deeee-licious. It’s sure to be poppin’ down there Monday night!

6 – The Nina. His flagship, sailed 25,000 miles under Columbus’ command and was his favorite of the three ships. Real name was the Santa Clara after the patron saint, but took the nickname from her owner, Juan Nino of Moguer. I think “Nina” means “the girl”.

7 – The Pinta. Like the Nina, a Caravel ship, light and fast; commonly used by explorers of those days. The most mysterious of the trio, she returned home and apparently that is all that is known.

8 – And The Santa Maria. The least favored by Columbus was the heaviest of them all; a cargo ship. Must have been a keen trick to keep track of all!

9 – The Parades!

10 – This Poem that helped us learn about the history of Columbus Day:

“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.”

Pickhit: I’ve noticed that some southeastern U.S. states, in what must be misguided, immature rebelliousness, gloss-over Columbus Day, previously celebrated on October 12th, the date he landed on our shores, universally across the land – and now on the second Monday – by renaming it shamefully as a “Professional Learning Day” while giving students the day off, ignoring it completely or otherwise denying pupils one of the most colorful and interesting holidays which celebrates the combining world and American (“the new world”) histories.
There was Ameriggo, Leif and Magellan, but only Columbus got the title of “first”.