Columbus Day Information For Kids

Columbus Day can be a controversial holiday, and interestingly enough, it was not particularly well received in the early 20th century when it was first proposed by a New York senator. Nonetheless, many parents and educators consider the study and recognition of history important, and Columbus is a part of history. So what should your kids know about this holiday? Here are some things you might consider teaching your children about Columbus Day.

Why Do We Celebrate It?

A good place to start is finding out why Columbus Day is celebrated. Some suggest that it should be more a day of recognition than celebration. Either way, consider teaching your kids some of the “why’s” of Columbus Day, such as the following points.

* Columbus’ determination, navigational and sailing skills are admirable.

* His “discovery” of South America opened the door for exploration and recognition of the other half of the world that had been unknown.

* It’s a significant historical event of global proportions.

* Columbus Day can be a source of national pride for native Italians and Spaniards.

Who Doesn’t Celebrate Columbus Day, and Why?

Regardless of your views on the matter, your kids should know that not everyone celebrates Columbus Day. Without sugar-coating it or relating uncomfortable details, frankly explain to your kids that some communities do not celebrate Columbus Day because they relate Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean with European conquest. Point out that some non-European cultures find this offensive or at least not something they want to celebrate.

Who Was Columbus?

Facts and tidbits about Columbus’ life are interesting, and help put his life’s work and journey into perspective. For example, you can teach your kids:

* Columbus may have been Jewish.
* He insisted until his death that he had found Asia, not South America.
* He vied for recognition and awards for his work.
* Columbus’ remains were exhumed and reinterred at least four times.

What Does It Mean for Us?

Show your kids the modern results of Columbus’ explorations. Chocolate, for instance, and some everyday spices were once unknown in Europe. Black pepper is everywhere now, but your kids might be interested to know it’s one of Columbus’s spice discoveries.

Conquest and Slavery – Getting Perspective

While it may seem shocking to our modern sensibilities, conquest and slavery were part of Columbus’s culture and time, and such concepts were hardly unique to Europeans. To help your kids get the proper perspective, you might make a list of societies and cultures that had slaves (it’s a very ancient concept). Explain that conquest was simply how tribes and people groups acquired land and power. If you like, discuss with your kids what alternatives they think might have worked better.

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