Columbus Day: Facts and History Behind the Holiday

Read about the history of the holiday and find out what's open and closed.

Happy Columbus Day! Here's a bit of history as well as practical information for the 2012 holiday, which falls on Oct. 8.


Columbus Day celebrates Christopher Columbus' arrival in the United States.

It became a state holiday in Colorado first, in 1906, and became a federal holiday in 1937. Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage. The first occasion was celebrated in New York City on October 12, 1866.

In recent decades there has been increasing controversy over whether Christopher Columbus should be celebrated as a hero due to his violence towards the Native American population. 

In the United States, Hawaii and South Dakota do not celebrate Columbus Day. Instead, they celebrate Discoverers Day (which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii) and Native Americans Day, respectively.

California,Texas and Florida removed Columbus Day as a paid holiday for government workers, while still maintaining it either as a day of recognition or a legal holiday.

Columbus Day is also celebrated in Spain, Uruguay, the Bahamas and many South American countries.

What's Closed:

Government offices, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, are closed. Courts and public schools are also closed. There is no mail delivery.

Ellen Zunino October 08, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Uh, Columbus' arrival in the United States? I don't think so. He didn't even make landfall on Hispaniola until it was named. A lot of people don't know that 1492 was the Late Middle Ages. The Spanish Inquisition was in full force. Spain didn't exist yet and the rest of Europe was nothing but a tangle of independent and semi-independent monarchies and duchies most of which were further entangled by intermarriage among the noble families. Columbus' smacking into North America while on his way to India, like a lot of modern situations mankind finds itself in, is an example of technology progressing faster than our ethics, morals, worldviews and overpowering our ability to handle the outcomes of that technology appropriately.
Gayle M. Montgomery October 08, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Scientists continue to prove he wasn't the first to arrive in the Americas and, as Ellen pointed out, did not make the US. Given the time and technology, his travels make for interesting science and a profile in determination, but his human rights violations (of course judged by today's standards) have appropriated him to interesting factoid, and not a hero.
Tricia Hobbs October 08, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Not ALL public schools are closed on Columbus Day. Monrovia School District was in session today and conducts business as usual on Columbus Day.
Dan Crandell October 09, 2012 at 01:44 AM
@Tricia Hobbs. I didn't know that. Guess when you don't have kids in school you remain ignorant. This is Monday Oct. 8th and that's all it should be. I vote no more Columbus Day in the USA.
Margeaux Rox October 09, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Here's an interesting link for you link lovers out there in Monrovia-land! http://www.history-timelines.org.uk/people-timelines/15-christopher-columbus-timeline.htm And another: http://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/irish-monk-america.htm Enjoy the links! http://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/irish-monk-america.htm


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