Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer. In 1492, he set sail to find a western trade route to Asia. The king and queen of Spain paid for his voyage. Columbus sailed on the flagship Santa Maria. He also brought two other ships with him, the Niña and the Pinta.
On October 12, 1492, after more than two months at sea, a crewmember on the Pinta gave the cry that land was in sight. Columbus and his crew landed on an island in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus believed he had reached Asia. In time, people came to understand that Columbus had actually reached a continent unknown to people in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This continent was North America.
Columbus Day began with Italian Americans who wanted to celebrate Columbus’s achievements. Italian Americans in New York City held the first Columbus Day celebration on October 12, 1866. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it a national holiday in 1937.
Since 1971, Columbus Day has been observed on the second Monday in October. Major cities, such as New York, Boston, and San Francisco, host large parades on Columbus Day.