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5 Interesting Facts About Columbus Day

Depending on which state you live in, Columbus Day might mean you get a much-needed day off from work, or it could mean business as usual.  That's because although Columbus Day is a federal holiday, there are actually 22 states that don't celebrate it.  Read on to learn why that is, as well as some other interesting facts about our national holiday:

  1. Columbus Was Not the First to Discover the New World.  Scholars have determined that actually, Vikings reached North America 500 years before Columbus.  For this reason—coupled with how Native Americans were treated by our earliest settlers—many cities celebrate Indigenous People's Day, rather than Columbus Day.

  2. A Lunar Eclipse May Have Saved Columbus' Life.  Columbus knew from his almanac that a lunar eclipse was scheduled to occur on February 29th, 1504.  At the time, he was in Jamaica and had been refused food by the islanders.  As History.com explains, “Columbus warned the islanders that his god was upset with their refusal of food and that the moon would 'rise inflamed with wrath' as an expression of divine displeasure.  On the appointed night, the eclipse darkened the moon and turned it red, and the terrified islanders offered provisions and beseeched Columbus to ask his God for mercy.”

  3. Columbus Was Responsible for Introducing Many Things We Enjoy Today to the Americas.  Any time you sit down for a meal, you're probably eating something that Columbus brought to America.  The list includes: barley, rye, sugar, bananas, citrus fruits, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs!

  4. Columbus Day Isn't Just Celebrated in the US.  Although the day goes by other names, it's also celebrated in Spain, Argentina, Belize, Uruguay, and the Bahamas.

  5. Oddly, Nobody Knows the Location of Columbus' Remains.  He was buried and reburied several times at various places around the world, including Spain and Haiti.