On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed his fleet of three ships on the Caribbean island of San Salvador (in the modern day Bahamas) effectively “discovering” the new world of the Americas. Over the next few years, Columbus made four total voyages to the New World, with the indigenous people becoming less and less impressed with his discoveries of the land they already inhabited. For the remainder of his life, Columbus never recognized the fact that he had stumbled upon a new continent, but instead thought that he had indeed found a new route to the East Indies. Thanks to the launch of Google Maps in 2005 we now know this to be untrue.
In 1906, Colorado became the first U.S. state to dedicate a day to honor Columbus’ pseudo-discoveries. This made a tremendous amount of sense, because who better to celebrate the accomplishments of a seafaring Italian from the east, than a western, landlocked state full of forest dwelling mountain people? Anyway, it only took 28 years, but the Christopher Columbus bug finally caught on (not to be confused with the variety of viruses he gave to the indigenous people he met) and Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1934.
Most people don’t know, but Christopher Columbus is not the only person to sort of discover the Americas and have a sort of holiday named after them. In fact, October 9th is recognized as Leif Erikson Day after the Viking explorer who “discovered” what is modern day Newfoundland in Canada, nearly 500 years before Columbus. Erikson even went so far as to establish a settlement on the island, but was forced to abandon it citing “crippling boredom” as the reason. It is also said the the Viking explorer was lactose intolerant and could not handle all the Poutine which is still a favorite Canadian dish to this day. This is why it is customary to avoid dairy products on October 9th in Canada and why only about eight people live in Newfoundland. In actuality, Erikson actually spent more time in the neighboring province of Labrador, because as everyone knows this is where labrador puppies come from and Vikings love puppies.