Columbus Day facts

Columbus Day
Columbus Day
First Landing of Columbus on the Shores of the New World; painting by Dióscoro Puebla (1862)
Observed by Various countries in the Americas, Spain, Italy, various Little Italys around the world.
Type Historical
Significance
  • Celebrations honoring Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas in 1492
  • Recognize contributions of Americans of Spanish and Italian descent
Date October 12 (actual/traditional); second Monday in October (observed in the United States)
2017 date October 9
2018 date October 8
2019 date October 14

Columbus Day is a holiday celebrated in many countries in the Americas, commemorating the date of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Similar holidays, celebrated as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America, Discovery Day in the Bahamas, Hispanic Day in Spain, and Día de la Resistencia Indígena in Venezuela, commemorate the same event.

These holidays have been unofficially celebrated since the late 18th century and they have been officially celebrated in various countries since the early 20th century.

Columbus Day in the United States

Columbus Day - drawing from the United States Department of Defense

Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian-American heritage.

The first recorded celebration of Columbus Day in the USA was held by the Tammany Society, also known as the Colombian Order, in New York on October 12th 1792, marking the 300th anniversary of Columbus's landing in the Bahamas.

Columbus Day was first celebrated by Italians in San Francisco in 1869, following on the heels of 1866 Italian celebrations in New York City. The first state celebration was in Colorado in 1905, and in 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Columbus Day as holiday in the United States. Since 1971, the holiday has been commemorated in the U.S. on the second Monday in October, the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada.

Banks are almost always closed on this day, as are government offices. Public schools however are not usually closed on Columbus Day; it is also not recognized by most American employers as a day off from work.

Local observance of Columbus Day

1892 DalandHouse ColumbusDay Salem Massachusetts byFrankCousins 2
Columbus Day in Salem, Massachusetts in 1892

Actual observance varies in different parts of the United States, ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete non-observance. Most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, though many mark it as a "Day of Observance" or "Recognition" and at least four do not recognize it at all. Most states that celebrate Columbus Day will close state services, while others operate as normal.

San Francisco claims the nation's oldest continuously existing celebration with the Italian-American community's annual Columbus Day Parade, which was established by Nicola Larco in 1868, while New York City boasts the largest, with over 35,000 marchers and one million viewers.

As in the mainland U.S., Columbus Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. In the United States Virgin Islands, the day is celebrated as both Columbus Day and "Puerto Rico Friendship Day".

Virginia also celebrates two legal holidays on the day, Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, which honors the final victory at the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.

Día de la Raza

The date of Columbus' arrival in the Americas is celebrated in Latin America (and in some Latino communities in the USA) as the Día de la Raza ("day of the race"), commemorating the first encounters of Europe and the Americas which would produce the new Mestizo race, culture, and identity. The day was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917, Venezuela in 1921, Chile in 1923, and Mexico in 1928.

Opposition

Some people, particularly Native Americans, find the holiday offensive because they object to honoring a person who they see as opening the door to European colonization, the exploitation of native peoples and the slave trade. In the United States, this has caused a persistent controversy between Native Americans and Italian-Americans. Some communities, such as Berkeley, California have renamed the holiday to "Indigenous Peoples Day". In 2002, the Venezuelan government renamed the holiday to Día de la Resistencia Indigena ("Day of Indigenous Resistance"). In 2004, Venezuelan activists toppled a statue of Columbus in Caracas on the day of the celebration.

Images


Columbus Day Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.