Columbus Day is a federal U.S. holiday that officially commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ landing in the New World on October 12, 1492. Though the holiday had been celebrated unofficially since the colonial period, it first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in 1937 as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope. Since 1970 (Oct. 12), the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October.
Many Italian-Americans view the Columbus Day observance as a celebration of their heritage. San Francisco Italian-American community holds the nation’s oldest annual Columbus Day Parade, established in 1868 by Nicola Larco . New York City claims the largest celebration in the country.
While some states observe the holiday with large-scale parades and other remarkable events, such states as Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii and South Dakota do not recognize the holiday at all. Most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, but some mark it as a "Day of Observance" or "Recognition". People in the United States Virgin Islands celebrate on this day both Columbus Day and "Puerto Rico Friendship Day". Virginia combines Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, which commemorates the final victory at the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War. Hawaii’s Discoverer’s Day commemorates the arrival of Polynesian settlers.
For a large number of people in the United States Columbus Day is a controversial holiday on many counts. There is evidence that the first Europeans who had sailed across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. Besides, indigenous peoples obviously had ’discovered’ the Americas thousands of years before. It has also been called into question that Columbus should be honored for discovering North America, for he only reached some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America. There is no doubt that arrival of the European settlers caused the demise of a large proportion of the native people, their history and culture.
Several U.S. cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with alternative days of remembrance and now celebrate Native Americans’ Day/Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day ( for example South Dakota’s Native American Day, Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day). Some other states have removed Columbus Day as a paid holiday for government workers while still maintaining Columbus Day either as a day of recognition or a legal holiday for other purposes. These include California and Texas.
In 2021 Columbus Day in USA falls on October 11.