First Landing of Columbus on the Shores
of the New World; painting by Dióscoro Puebla (1862)
Columbus Day, which is on the second Monday of October, remembers Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492. This holiday is controversial because the European settlement in the Americas led to the demise of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples.
Observe Columbus Day
Some Americans celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of their country with church services and other activities. In some towns and cities, special church services, parades and large events are held. Many celebrations happen in the Italian-American community. The celebrations in New York and San Francisco are particularly noteworthy. In Hawaii Columbus Day is also known as Landing Day or Discoverer's Day.
Many states now celebrate Native Americansâ€™ Day/Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day.
Many countries in the New World and elsewhere officially celebrate as a holiday the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas, which happened on October 12, 1492. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Raza ("Day of the Race") in many countries in Latin America, as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in Italy and in the Little Italys around the world. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century and officially in various areas since the early 20th century.
What's open or closed?
Columbus day is a public holiday in many parts of the United states, but is not a day off in some states. Some government offices are closed because Columbus Day is still a federal government holiday. The day is a legal observance in states like Florida.
Many businesses and shops are open in states that don't have Columbus Day as a public holiday. Schools are not required to close but check with your school district or school calendar on Columbus Day school holiday closures. The same goes for post offices - check with your local post office.
About Columbus Day
Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas. He is sometimes portrayed as the discoverer of the New World. However, this is controversial on many counts. There is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had 'discovered' the Americas thousands of years before.
Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869. The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907. In 1937, Columbus Day become a holiday across the United States. Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. The date on which Columbus arrived in the Americas is also celebrated as the DÃa de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.
Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people. It has been argued that this was a direct result of Columbus' actions. It is clear that the arrival of the European settlers led to the demise of a large proportion of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It has also been argued that Columbus should not be honored for discovering North America, as he only went as far as some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America.
Note: timeanddate.com states the facts and issues associated with this observance but does not disclose its opinion on the matter.
Columbus Day first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in the United States in 1937, though people have celebrated Columbus's voyage since the colonial period. In 1792, New York City and other U.S. cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the four hundredth anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress.
Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first enshrined as a legal holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver. The first statewide Columbus Day holiday was proclaimed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905, and it was made a statutory holiday in 1907. In April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus Day.
Since 1970 (Oct. 12), the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October, coincidentally exactly the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada fixed since 1959. It is generally observed nowadays by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service, other federal agencies, most state government offices, many businesses, and most school districts. Some businesses and some stock exchanges remain open, also some states and municipalities abstain from observing the holiday. The traditional date of the holiday also adjoins the anniversary of the United States Navy (founded October 13, 1775), and thus both occasions are customarily observed by the Navy (and usually the Marine Corps as well) with either a 72- or 96-hour liberty period.
Local observance of Columbus Day
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 (including states where it is not a legal holiday) close schools and other 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.
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.
Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and South Dakota are U.S. states that do not recognize Columbus Day at all, though Hawaii and South Dakota mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers' Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October, though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus' discovery. The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverers' Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as "Native American Day" rather than Columbus Day. Oregon does not recognize Columbus Day, neither as a holiday nor a commemoration; schools and public offices remain open. Iowa and Nevada do not celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday; however, the governor is "authorized and requested" by statute to proclaim the day each year.
Several other states have removed Columbus Day as a paid holiday for government workers while still maintaining it either as a day of recognition or a legal holiday for other purposes. These include California and Texas.
The city of Berkeley, California, has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day since 1992, a move which has been followed by several other localities including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, California; Dane County, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington. Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day "Native American Day", or name the day after their own tribe.
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