The Complete Guide to Columbus Day 2017

Columbus Day Countdown

until October 9, 2017

Columbus Day Facts and History

Columbus Day is a National Holiday in the United States and in some other North and South American countries. The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the arrival of the explorer Christopher Columbus in the New World. At one time, Christopher Columbus was thought to have been the first European to discover America. While that fact is now debated by some historians, the holiday remains and is sometimes now viewed as a chance to celebrate the discovery of the Americas rather than the accomplishments of a single explorer.

columbus-dayWhen Is Columbus Day Celebrated?

The actual observance date for Columbus Day is October 12; however, in the United States, the holiday is observed on the second Monday of October. The reason for this is to allow for a three-day weekend, as government offices are typically closed in observance of the holiday.

The History of Columbus Day

As far back as the Colonial Period, people celebrated Columbus voyage as opening the door for settlement in the New World. In 1866, a group of Italian Americans held a large celebration to honor Christopher Columbus and Italian heritage. For the 400th anniversary of the event in 1892, events were held in the United States to encourage patriotism and good citizenship.

Despite these early celebrations, it wasn’t until 1906 than any state formally observed Columbus Day. The first state to make the occasion a holiday was Colorado. An Italian American and resident of Denver named Angelo Noce is credited with helping to found the holiday, as he lobbied lawmakers heavily to get the holiday made official. The United States declared Columbus Day a federal holiday in 1937.

How Columbus Day Is Celebrated in the U.S.

Today, Columbus Day is observed in every state except Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota. Even in these states, federal buildings and federal employees typically have the day off. It is becoming less and less common for banks and other businesses to close on Columbus Day. Stores typically remain open, and many run sales to attract customers for the event.

Celebrations of Columbus Day are most common in Italian American communities in the United States. In so-called “Little Italy” neighborhoods across the country, there are often parades and festivals held to mark the occasion. School children across the country are often taught about Columbus in honor of the occasion, and some communities stage plays or pageants to tell the story of Columbus.

Controversy Over Columbus Day

Columbus Day has become a point of controversy in some areas. There is historic evidence to suggest that Christopher Columbus and his men did not treat the Native Americans in the New World humanely, leading some people to believe that there should not be a holiday that celebrates his life.

In Hawaii, Columbus Day has been replaced with Discoverers’ Day, a holiday that celebrates the arrival of the Polynesians on the islands. South Dakota holds Native American Day to honor the indigenous peoples who reside in the state. Several cities across the United States have renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples Day” and hold events to celebrate Native Americans rather than Christopher Columbus.