Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries of the Americas and elsewhere which officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The landing is celebrated as “Columbus Day” in the United States, as “Día de la Raza” (“Day of the Race”) in some countries in Latin America, as “Día de la Hispanidad” and “Fiesta Nacional” in Spain, where it is also the religious festivity of la Virgen del Pilar, 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, and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in Italy as well as in Little Italys around the world.As the day of remembrance of Our Lady of the Pillar, 12 October had been declared a religious feast day throughout the Spanish Empire in 1730; the secular Fiesta de la Raza Española was first proposed by Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro y Díaz-Argüelles in 1913.
Celebration of Columbus’s voyage in the early United States is recorded from as early as 1792, when the Tammany Society in New York City(for whom it became an annual tradition) and also the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston celebrated the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the New World. President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus’s landing in the New World on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These rituals took themes such as citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and the celebration of social progress.
Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, and the first such celebration was held in New York City on October 12, 1866. The 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 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
The U.S. states of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont do not recognize Columbus Day at all; however, they mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverer’s 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’s discovery.The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverer’s Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. Similarly, in 2016, Vermont started celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. Because this change was made by Governor Peter Shumlin’s executive proclamation, it only applies for 2016. In the future it would have to be issued by the sitting governor on a yearly basis, or officially changed by the legislature in order to become permanent. On the other hand, South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as Native American Day. Until 2017, Oregon did not recognize Columbus Day, either as a holiday or as a commemoration; schools and public offices remained open.However, on Columbus Day, 2017, Oregon Governor Kate Brown renamed the holiday “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” to remember these cultures and commemorate the struggles of native peoples during European colonization. Two additional states, Iowa and Nevada, do not celebrate it as an official holiday, but the states’ respective governors are “authorized and requested” by statute to proclaim the day each year.
Several other states have removed the day as a paid holiday for government workers while still maintaining it either as a day of recognition, or as a legal holiday for other purposes. These include California and Texas.