Why Columbus Day in October?


Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, which occurred on October 12, 1492 in the Julian calendar and October 21, 1492 in the modern Gregorian calendar, as an official holiday. The day is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in many countries in Latin America, as Día de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures) in Costa Rica, as Discovery Day in The Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad (Spanish Day) and National Day in Spain, and as Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) in Venezuela. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various countries since the early 20th century.

Columbus Day became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1905. It became a federal holiday in 1970. People have ritually remembered Columbus beginning at least in the Colonial period. In 1792, New York City and other eastern U.S. cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the 400 year anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of obedience to the nation, and celebrating social change as progress.

Catholic immigration in the mid-nineteenth century induced discrimination from anti-immigrant activists such as the Ku Klux Klan. Like many other struggling immigrant communities, Catholics developed organizations to fight discrimination and provide insurance for the struggling immigrants. The organization, the Knights of Columbus, chose Columbus as the masthead to symbolize their rights to citizenship: one of their own, a fellow Catholic, had discovered America.


Some Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first popularized as a holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver. The first official non-centennial Columbus Day was decreed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905 and made state law in 1907.

Since 1971, the holiday has been commemorated in the U.S. on the second Monday in October, the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada. It is generally observed today by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service and other federal agencies, most state government offices, and some school districts; however, most businesses and stock exchanges remain open.