Columbus Day is right around the corner, and many Americans are looking forward to the long weekend. But, did you know that not all states observe this holiday? This is just one of the many Columbus Day facts you will learn below.
The Most Interesting Columbus Day Facts
Columbus Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October. This 2022, Columbus Day falls on October 10. Despite being celebrated every year, many Americans still don’t know why this holiday even exists. Here are some of the most interesting Columbus Day facts every citizen should know.
1. The Meaning Behind Columbus Day
Columbus Day commemorates the 1492 landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World, specifically the Americas. Many cities in the 18th century celebrated this Columbus Day unofficially before it was declared a national holiday. For a lot of people, the meaning behind Columbus Day is to remember the achievements of the eponymous explorer.
2. Christopher Columbus’ Burial Sites
Christopher Columbus was a born explorer. He began sailing at the tender age of 15. His most famous (or infamous) destination was the Americas, which he sailed to using three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Although two of the ships would make it back to Spain, the Santa Maria ran aground off the Haitian coast.
Having sailed to the New World three more times, Columbus died in 1506 at the age of 55. This was only two years after his final trip to the New World.
Although he was originally buried in Valladolid, Spain, he was soon after moved to Seville for a short period of time. In 1542, his body was again moved to a newly constructed cathedral in the New World where he would remain for 200 years.
After moving him a few more times (to Cuba and then to Seville), confusion arose when another body — thought to belong to his son, Diego — was discovered in the Tomb of Santa Maria in the Dominican Republic. To this day, it remains unknown whether it is Christopher or Diego who is buried in Spain.
3. Special for Italian-Americans
Aside from honoring Columbus’ achievements, Columbus Day also serves as an important holiday for Italian-Americans. Although Spain sponsored his explorations, Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Today, many Italian-Americans use Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage.
4. Why Is Columbus Day Controversial?
Despite having been celebrated for a long time, controversy surrounds Columbus Day history. To some people, Christopher Columbus is celebrated as an explorer. But, to others, he is a colonizer.
While he did “discover” the New World, his arrival resulted in the enslavement and deaths of many Indigenous peoples. He also forcefully took the land of the Native people, whom he labeled “Indians.”
5. Colorado Was the First
Colorado was the first state to officially recognize Columbus Day as a holiday on April 1, 1907. This isn’t surprising considering Colorado even has a major city named after the Italian explorer. After Colorado, New York soon followed in 1909. And then, in 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Columbus Day a national holiday.
6. Many States Don’t Observe Columbus Day
Due to the controversial history behind Columbus Day, many states and cities have stopped observing the holiday altogether. Instead, they have officially replaced it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Alaska, for example, began observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2017. It is worth noting that South Dakota was the first to do this in 1990. Other states include Oregon and Vermont.
Meanwhile, there are also some states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in addition to Columbus Day. One example is Nebraska, which started recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on top of Columbus Day in 2021. Oklahoma, on the other hand, celebrates both Columbus Day and Native American Day concurrently.
Many other states observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day through proclamations but not officially. Still, Columbus Day remains a federal holiday.
7. Not Just the United States
Perhaps one of the most interesting Columbus Day fun facts is that the United States is not alone in its celebrations. The holiday is also celebrated in other countries.
It is known as Dia de la Raza in most Spanish-speaking countries, which translates to “Day of the Race.” In Spain, the day is known as Dia de la Hispanidad or Fiesta Nacional. In the Bahamas, people celebrate it as Discovery Day.
In addition to Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is also widely celebrated across the globe. In fact, there is an International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which takes place on August 9 every year. The goal is to raise awareness of the world’s indigenous population and protect their rights. It also commemorates the many achievements and contributions of indigenous peoples.
8. How Columbus Day Is Celebrated
While celebrations can vary from city to city, one of the most popular ways to commemorate Columbus Day is through parades. Both New York and Chicago, which are known for their festive parades, have celebrated Columbus Day with the same.
Some parades are not only for Columbus Day but also for the celebration of Italian-American heritage. Because many Americans get Monday off as well, they typically celebrate the holiday by going on a short trip over the long weekend.
9. Least Observed Holiday
One of the most fascinating facts about Columbus Day is that it is the least observed federal holiday in the United States. This is largely due to the controversial history behind the holiday, which has led many states not to officially recognize it. While non-essential government agencies and banks do close on Columbus Day, most businesses stay open. In most states, schools also close down for the day.
Understanding Columbus Day Facts
It is important that Americans know the meaning behind Columbus Day and why the country celebrates it. For a lot of people, though, Indigenous Peoples’ Day or Native American Day has replaced Columbus Day due to its controversial roots. The move to erase Columbus Day, though, has encountered pushback from some groups. Regardless, knowing these Columbus Day facts will help you understand the holiday better and allow you to form your own opinions.
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