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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.

In Tennesse, Columbus Day is a legal holiday according to the Tenn. Code Ann. § 15-1-101 (2019), but the Governor can substitute the day after Thanksgiving for Columbus Day for the purpose of closing state offices. When this occurs, state employees do not get a day off on the second Monday of October. Instead, they get the Friday after the fourth Thursday of November as a holiday.

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.

Long Weekend

Since Columbus Day falls on Monday, it is one of the public holidays in the United States that always create a long weekend.

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
2016MonOct 10Columbus DayState holidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2016MonOct 10Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2017MonOct 9Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2017MonOct 9Columbus DayState holidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2018MonOct 8Columbus DayState holidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2018MonOct 8Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2019MonOct 14Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2019MonOct 14Columbus DayState holidayAll except AK, AR, CA, DE, FL, HI, MI, MN, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, TX, VT, WA, WY
2020MonOct 12Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2020MonOct 12Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2020MonOct 12Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2021MonOct 11Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2021MonOct 11Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2021MonOct 11Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2022MonOct 10Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2022MonOct 10Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2022MonOct 10Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2023MonOct 9Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2023MonOct 9Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2023MonOct 9Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2024MonOct 14Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2024MonOct 14Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2024MonOct 14Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2025MonOct 13Columbus DayFederal Holiday 
2025MonOct 13Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2025MonOct 13Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2026MonOct 12Columbus DayState holiday22 states
2026MonOct 12Columbus DayState Legal HolidayTennessee
2026MonOct 12Columbus DayFederal Holiday 

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