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Happy Columbus Day! And Happy Thanksgiving If You’re Canadian!

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And I wondered why Tops had turkey on special this week.

Columbus Day is a United States holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. It was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century but did not become a federal holiday until 1937. The date was adjusted to the second Monday of October in 1971, providing some of us with a long weekend.

The Italian-born explorer had set sail two months earlier, backed by the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He intended to chart a western sea route to China, India and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.  Instead, he landed in the Bahamas, becoming the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland during the 10th century.

Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba and believed it was mainland China. In December the expedition found Hispaniola, which he though might be Japan. There, he established Spain’s first colony in the Americas with 39 of his men. In March 1493, Columbus returned to Spain along with gold, spices and Native American captives. He crossed the Atlantic several more times before his death in 1506. By his third journey, he realized that he hadn’t reached Asia but instead had come across a continent previously unknown to Europeans.

In many parts of the United States, Columbus Day has evolved into a celebration of Italian-American heritage. Local groups host parades and street fairs featuring colorful costumes, music and Italian food. In cities and towns that use the day to honor indigenous peoples, activities include pow-wows, traditional dance and lessons about Native American culture.

Here in Western New York, the annual Columbus Day Parade went off without a hitch a day “early” on Saturday along Hertel Avenue. The grand marshal was Buffalo native Tom Fontana, the writer/producer of the television series ‘St. Elsewhere’ and ‘Homicide’.

Monday Metro Bus and Rail will operate on regular schedule. Garbage collection will be as usual for Buffalo and most communities. When in doubt, look if your neighbors put their trash out. Schools, libraries, banks and all municipal offices will be closed. Stores will celebrate with plenty of sales.

And for our friends from The Great White North, may the turkey and trimmings be plentiful!

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