Columbus Day

When is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day, held every second Monday in October, commemorates the discovering of the American continents by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Columbus first arrived to the region on October 12, 1492. The world changed forever upon his discovery. While created out of good spirit, Columbus Day is one of the most controversial modern-day holidays.

Sailing the Ocean Blue

In 1492, Christopher Columbus became known as the first European to find the American continents. While later historical accounts have proven this claim to be false in many aspects, Columbus has long carried this credit throughout the centuries. Before his discoveries, Europeans didn’t know there were large land masses outside of Europe, Asia and Africa. Despite later controversies, this discovery was significant at this time in European history. It would later lead the way to the colonializing of what would eventually become the United States of America.

Evolution of Celebrations

Columbus Day has evolved over the decades from other types of celebrations. Christopher Columbus himself was of Italian ethnicity, which is why he is praised by many Italian-Americans residing in North and South America. People affiliated with this group in New York City celebrated Christopher Columbus in 1866. In 1869, Italian-Americans residing in the San Francisco area also first observed the early makings of what would later be called Columbus Day.

In the late 19th century, discoveries were continuing to be made in the western portion of the country. It’s no surprise that the original discoveries of Christopher Columbus were often thought of. The 400th anniversary of the original discovery date was observed in 1892. Just over a decade later, the state of Colorado started celebrating Columbus Day every October 12th. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded legislation to make it a national holiday. To make celebrations easier, Columbus Day was officially moved to the second Monday in October beginning in 1970.

Traditionally, Columbus Day is a federal holiday. This means that the government is not in session during this time. Most public schools and banks used to be closed on this holiday as well; however, as of recent years, many businesses and local governments don’t consider Columbus Day a public holiday.

The most common form of celebrations are that of discovery. Many historians argue that we live in a global community today thanks in part to the efforts of explorers of the past. While there aren’t any major land masses to discover today, the spirit of exploration rings true to many people – even more so on Columbus Day.


While exploration is certainly an integral part of our history, there are many arguments against celebrating Christopher Columbus. There’s no denying the fact that when early Europeans discovered the Americas that native peoples were displaced. As a result, communities were often destroyed, and many other cultures wiped out, leaving no traces for history books to capture. This sad fact is the dark side of the discoveries made by Columbus. Others argue that too much credit is given to Columbus, as he didn’t make it around the entire perimeter of the Americas.

Due to such controversies, many local and state governments have modified Columbus Day. For example, the state of Hawaii observes the holiday as “Discoverer’s Day.” Alaska does not recognize the holiday at all. Other states have transformed the holiday to remember the indigenous people who Columbus came across when he first came to the Americas. For example, South Dakota recognizes “Native American Day,” and Wisconsin knows Columbus Day as “Indigenous People’s Day.”