The Naive Explorer

"Although Columbus Day, commemorating his first landfall in the New World, somewhere in the Bahamas—the precise location remains disputed—seems a quintessentially American holiday, it is a recent invention, established by FDR in 1937. And it has a fairly muddled heritage: Columbus, of course, believed throughout the course of his four voyages that he had not discovered a new world, but rather pioneered a water route to an old one, the India in he had read about in Marco Polo’s celebrated Travels. He was naively misguided about this to the end of his days. Furthermore, he never set foot in North America; he got no closer than a glimpse of the far-off Florida Keys before deciding to head south. Incredibly, he never guessed that North America existed, not even as an indistinct, monster-inhabited place on one of his fanciful maps."

That’s Columbus scholar Laurence Bergreen on the strange heritage of Columbus Day.