10 facts about Columbus Day 2023

10 facts about Columbus Day

Every second Monday in October, the United States observes a holiday known by many as Columbus Day. What began as a celebration of the discovery of the “New World” has become a subject of intense debate and reconsideration. This blog post aims to explore the complexities surrounding Columbus Day, its history, its current status, and the alternative perspectives that have emerged over time.

The Origin Story: 1492 and All That

Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in 1492, backed by Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. Upon landing in what is now known as the Bahamas, he believed he had reached the Indies, thus the term “Indians” for the native populations he encountered. Schools have traditionally taught this moment as the “discovery” of America, but this narrative is increasingly being questioned.

The Controversy: A Change in Tides

The arrival of Columbus and subsequent European explorers had a devastating impact on indigenous populations, including the spread of diseases, forced labor, and violent conquest. Critics argue that celebrating Columbus Day glorifies these harmful aspects of colonization. This has led to protests, petitions, and educational reforms aimed at providing a more balanced view of history.

The Shift: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

In an effort to refocus the narrative and pay homage to the indigenous communities affected by colonization, many states and cities have transitioned from celebrating Columbus Day to observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This shift seeks to honor the rich cultures, histories, and contributions of Native Americans, rather than the European explorers who led to their oppression.

Modern Observances: A Patchwork of Perspectives

Today, Columbus Day is a federal holiday, meaning federal offices and banks are closed. However, not all states observe the holiday, and those that do may have varying traditions and ceremonies. Some may focus on Italian-American heritage, as Columbus was Italian, while others may use the day for educational programs about indigenous cultures.

10 intriguing facts about Columbus Day

First Columbus day

1. Not Always a Federal Holiday

Columbus Day was not declared a federal holiday until 1937. Before that, it was largely celebrated among the Italian-American community.

2. A Pioneering State

Colorado was the first U.S. state to make Columbus Day an official holiday. This happened in 1907, well before it became a federal holiday.

3. NYC’s Grand Parade

New York City hosts one of the largest Columbus Day parades in the world. Thousands participate in the event, and it is widely viewed on television.

4. Alternative Celebrations

South Dakota celebrates Native American Day on the same day as Columbus Day. This is a gesture aimed at recognizing the importance of Native American culture and history.

5. An Italian Endeavor

While Columbus was sailing under the Spanish flag, he was originally from Genoa, Italy. The day is often celebrated as a mark of Italian heritage in various communities.

6. No Universal Observance

Columbus Day is one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays. Some states do not recognize it at all, and some have even replaced it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

7. First to Use the Term “New World”

Columbus is often credited with being the first to use the term “New World” (“Nuevo Mundo” in Spanish) to describe the lands he discovered.

8. Differing Dates Worldwide

Different countries celebrate Columbus’s arrival on different dates. For instance, Latin American countries celebrate Día de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) on October 12, without making any direct reference to Columbus.

9. A Day for Sales

Similar to other U.S. holidays, Columbus Day has become a popular day for retail sales and promotions, with many businesses offering special “Columbus Day Sales.”

10. Multiple Voyages

Contrary to popular belief, Columbus made not just one, but four voyages to the Americas. However, he never set foot on what is now the continental United States.