Columbus Day

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Columbus Day
United States
Columbus Day

When It Occurs

Every Second Monday of October

Timeline

Days Passed (288)

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Columbus Day is observed on the second Monday of October, honoring Italian Americans whose courage and character contribute to defining our nation. In recognition of Christopher Columbus' historic voyage 531 years ago, the Congress, through a joint resolution on April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), has requested the President to proclaim the second Monday of October each year as 'Columbus Day.' This proclamation acknowledges and commemorates the significance of Columbus' exploration in shaping American history.

History

  • Origins: Columbus Day was first celebrated in the United States in the late 19th century. The first recorded celebration was held in New York City on October 12, 1792, marking the 300th anniversary of Columbus' landing.
  • Federal Holiday: In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday, largely due to lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal organization.
  • Date Change: Initially observed on October 12, the holiday was moved to the second Monday in October in 1971 as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Significance

Columbus Day honors Christopher Columbus' voyages and his role in opening the Americas to European exploration and colonization. For many Italian Americans, the holiday is a celebration of their heritage and cultural contributions to the United States, as Columbus was of Italian origin.

Controversy and Criticism

Columbus Day has been increasingly criticized for its celebration of European colonization, which brought about the exploitation, displacement, and suffering of indigenous peoples. Critics argue that Columbus' arrival marked the beginning of centuries of oppression and violence against Native American communities.

Indigenous Peoples' Day

In response to the controversy, several states and cities have adopted Indigenous Peoples' Day as an alternative to Columbus Day. This day honors the history, culture, and contributions of Native American peoples and seeks to acknowledge the impact of colonization on indigenous communities.

Observances and Celebrations

  1. Parades and Festivals:

    • New York City: Home to one of the largest Columbus Day parades, featuring floats, bands, and cultural displays.
    • San Francisco: Hosts a major parade and Italian Heritage Festival.
  2. Cultural Events:

    • Italian Heritage Celebrations: Many communities with large Italian American populations host events celebrating Italian culture, cuisine, and contributions to American society.
  3. Educational Programs:

    • Schools and Museums: Some schools and museums use the day to educate about the history of European exploration and its impact on Native Americans.
  4. Community Activities:

    • Indigenous Peoples' Day Events: Various events, including educational sessions, cultural performances, and public discussions, are organized to honor indigenous history and culture.

Legal Status

Columbus Day is a federal holiday, meaning federal government offices are closed. However, the observance of the holiday varies by state. Some states do not recognize Columbus Day and instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day or other holidays.

States Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day

Several states and cities have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, including:

  • South Dakota: Celebrates Native American Day.
  • Hawaii: Observes Discoverers' Day.
  • Alaska, Vermont, Maine, and New Mexico: Officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Impact and Legacy

The legacy of Columbus Day is complex and multifaceted. While it serves as a celebration of Italian American heritage and the age of exploration, it also represents a painful history for indigenous peoples. The growing recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day reflects a shift towards acknowledging and addressing historical injustices.

Conclusion

Columbus Day remains a significant but contentious holiday in the United States. It serves as an opportunity to reflect on the nation's history, the contributions of Italian Americans, and the profound impact of European colonization on indigenous communities. As perspectives continue to evolve, the observance of this day may further change to better honor and recognize the diverse histories that shape the United States.