Is The Sailing Too Smooth For Columbus?

An undated portrait of Christopher Columbus from the Naval Museum in Madrid, 19 May 2006. Spain will be celebrating Saturday the 500th anniversary of Columbus with a series of concerts and festivals in honour of the man who discovered the way to America but who died in semi-obscurity. AFP PHOTO/HO/NAVAL MUSEUM
AFP/Getty Images
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

So it's Columbus Day! And that means…what, exactly?

Officially, Columbus Day is the holiday created to celebrate Christopher Columbus' discovery of America. But, you and I both know that he didn't even reach the mainland until his third try!

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and ended up in…Cuba. He reached the terra firma of North America…in 1498. Columbus wasn't sure what he had crossed when he got over here. This is why the native people he chanced upon came to be known as "Indians." Remember, he wasn't looking for a new world; Columbus was looking for a shortcut to India and China.

It was the Vikings, of course, who were the first Europeans to visit here with any frequency. Some guess they were in Canada 500 years before Columbus' adventures.

In New York, we pretty much view Columbus Day as a day to celebrate…being Italian. Columbus was from Italy -- probably Genoa -- though his trip was paid for by the Spanish.

It's a good thing we have the day off to figure out who should really get credit.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.