Columbus Day, sometimes referred to as Discoverer's Day, became a federal holiday in The US in 1971. It is celebrated on a second Monday of October in honour of discovery of America in 1492 by Christopher Columbus.
Columbus was born in Italy in 1451 and at the age of 22 decided to follow his dream of becoming a sailor. At the time discovering a shorter route to the East was most explorers' goal as this would open up trade. He studied and collected all information he could find about the world in order to prepare himself for joining others in this quest.
Contrary to the then belief that the Earth was flat and the only way to get to Asia was going south and then east, Columbus thought that one could reach it by sailing west and doing a full circle. After his proposal for ships and men was refused several times he was finally financed by the King and Queen of Spain in 1492.
He set sail with three ships the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria on August 3, 1492 on what he thought was a new route to Asia. Due to trouble with ships he stopped at the Canaries and continued his journey on September 3. On October 12, 1492 one of his crew on board the Pinta spotted land believing it to be India, hence the name they gave the people they first encountered there - Indians. The debate on which island they landed first is still open, whether it was San Salvador or another.
New York City celebrated the 300th anniversary of Columbus's discovery in 1792 and slowly the tradition spread to the rest of the country. Today the holiday represents more a day for relaxation and is marked by traditional parade down New York's Fifth Avenue.
Its original meaning is causing dispute however, as many see it as a celebration of conquest reminding that Native Americans lived there long before his arrival. The view that Columbus discovered America is therefore being slowly rejected.