Columbus Day commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. The Italian-born explorer had set sail two months earlier, backed by the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He intended to chart a western sea route to China, India and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.
Contrary to popular belief, most educated Europeans in Columbus’ day understood that the world was round, but they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed. As a result, Columbus and his contemporaries assumed that only the Atlantic lay between Europe and the riches of the East Indies.
Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba and believed it was mainland China; in December the expedition found Hispaniola, which he though might be Japan. There, he established Spain’s first colony in the Americas with 39 of his men.
COLUMBUS DAY TRADITIONS
- In many parts of the South America, Columbus Day has evolved into a celebration of Italian-American heritage.
- Local groups host parades and street fairs featuring colorful costumes, music and Italian food.
- In cities and towns that use the day to honor indigenous peoples, activities include pow-wows, traditional dance and lessons about Native American culture.
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 also known as Landing Day or Discoverer’s Day.
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.
WHAT’S OPEN OR CLOSES?
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. The day is a legal observance in states like Florida.
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.
COLUMBUS DAY CELEBRATIONS IN USA