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Columbus Day in the United States

Columbus Day, which is on the second Monday of October, remembers Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492. This holiday is controversial because the European settlement in the Americas led to the demise of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples.

Is Columbus Day a Public Holiday?

Columbus Day is a public holiday in some areas (see list below), where it is a day off and schools and most businesses are closed. In other areas, Columbus Day is a normal working day.

The Christopher Columbus monument in Barcelona, Spain.

©iStockphoto.com/Lya_Cattel

Observe Columbus Day

Some Americans celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of their country with church services and other activities. In some towns and cities, special church services, parades and large events are held. Many celebrations happen in the Italian-American community. The celebrations in New York and San Francisco are particularly noteworthy. In Hawaii Columbus Day is celebrated as Discoverers' Day, but it is not a state holiday.

Many states now celebrate Native Americans' Day/Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day.

What’s Open or Closed?

Columbus day is a public holiday in many parts of the United states, but is not a day off in some states. Some government offices are closed because Columbus Day is still a federal government holiday. The day is a legal observance in states like Florida.

Many businesses and shops are open in states that don't have Columbus Day as a public holiday. Schools are not required to close but check with your school district or school calendar on Columbus Day school holiday closures. The same goes for post offices - check with your local post office.

About Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas. He is sometimes portrayed as the discoverer of the New World. However, this is controversial on many counts. There is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had 'discovered' the Americas thousands of years before.

Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869. The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907. In 1937, Columbus Day become a holiday across the United States. Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. The date on which Columbus arrived in the Americas is also celebrated as the Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.

Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people. It has been argued that this was a direct result of Columbus' actions. It is clear that the arrival of the European settlers led to the demise of a large proportion of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It has also been argued that Columbus should not be honored for discovering North America, as he only went as far as some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America.

Note: timeanddate.com states the facts and issues associated with this observance but does not disclose its opinion on the matter.

Columbus Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010MonOct 11Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, NV, OR, SD, TX, WA
2011MonOct 10Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, NV, OR, SD, TX, WA
2012MonOct 8Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, NV, OR, SD, TX, WA
2013MonOct 14Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, NV, OR, SD, TX, WA
2014MonOct 13Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2014MonOct 13Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida
2015MonOct 12Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida
2015MonOct 12Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2016MonOct 10Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2016MonOct 10Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida
2017MonOct 9Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida
2017MonOct 9Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2018MonOct 8Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2018MonOct 8Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida
2019MonOct 14Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2019MonOct 14Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida
2020MonOct 12Columbus DayFederal HolidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2020MonOct 12Columbus DayLocal observanceFlorida

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