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Columbus Day 2024

An image of a ship in the middle of the sea with a title happy Columbus Day

Columbus Day, observed on the second Monday of October each year, is a federal holiday in the United States that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas on October 12, 1492. In 2024, Columbus Day will be celebrated on October 14. This day has traditionally been a time to celebrate Italian-American heritage and the “discovery” of America. However, it has also become a day of controversy due to the historical consequences of European colonization for indigenous peoples.

As a federal holiday, non-essential federal government offices are closed, and federal employees are paid for that day off. Additionally, many states and localities also observe the holiday, which may include closures of schools and other public entities.

The Observance of Columbus Day 2024

The observance of Columbus Day and its variations generally centers around the date of October 12th, the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in the New World in 1492. However, the specific date of celebration can vary:

1. United States: Columbus Day is observed on the second Monday of October, rather than specifically on October 12th. This adjustment was made to create a long weekend, following the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

2. Spain: The “Fiesta Nacional de España” coincides directly with October 12th, aligning with the historical date of Columbus’s arrival.

3. Latin American Countries: The observance known as “Día de la Raza,” “Día de la Hispanidad,” or “Día de las Culturas” generally takes place on October 12th. Each country might have nuances in how they observe it based on local customs and historical perspectives.

4. The Bahamas: “Discovery Day” is celebrated on October 12th, directly commemorating Columbus’s landing on Guanahani.

5. Belize – Celebrates October 12 as “Pan American Day.” This holiday emphasizes the cultural diversity and heritage of the Americas, reflecting the historical and ongoing interactions among various cultures across the continent.

6. Venezuela – Observes October 12 as “Día de la Resistencia Indígena” (Day of Indigenous Resistance). This name change reflects a shift in focus from celebrating Columbus’s arrival to honoring the resilience and struggle of indigenous populations against European colonization.

7. Costa Rica – Marks October 12 as “Día de las Culturas” (Day of the Cultures). This holiday aims to celebrate the rich tapestry of Costa Rican society, which includes contributions from indigenous, European, African, and Asian communities, emphasizing a narrative of cultural integration and diversity.

8. Chile – Recognizes October 12 as “Día del Encuentro de Dos Mundos” (Day of the Encounter Between Two Worlds). Though not a public holiday, this observance is significant in educational settings where it promotes understanding and reflection on the historical encounter between European explorers and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

States Observing Columbus Day

Columbus Day is widely celebrated across various states in the United States, each observing the holiday with its own local customs and events. Here’s how the holiday is recognized in several key states:

1. New York stands out for its large-scale celebrations, particularly in New York City, which hosts one of the country’s largest Columbus Day parades. The event is a significant occasion, highlighting Italian-American culture and heritage.

2. Illinois and Connecticut also observe Columbus Day as a state holiday, closing state offices and celebrating with various local events. These states maintain traditional observances, including parades and cultural festivities.

3. California presents a varied approach, with the state government recognizing Columbus Day as a holiday. However, not all localities participate, as some choose to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead, reflecting diverse local perspectives.

4. New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island observe Columbus Day with significant events. Massachusetts, particularly in Boston, hosts a notable parade and Italian-American cultural celebrations, while Rhode Island emphasizes celebrating Italian-American heritage through various community events.

5. Ohio recognizes Columbus Day as a public holiday. However, the observance is mixed, with some cities also recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day concurrently, showing a blend of traditional celebration and a nod to the broader historical impacts of Columbus’s arrival.

States Opting for Alternative Observances

Several other U.S. states have opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day or a similar alternative observance rather than Columbus Day, All the states mentioned celebrate their respective holidays—whether it’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Native American Day, or Discoverers’ Day—on the same date as the federal observance of Columbus Day, which is the second Monday of October.

1. South Dakota – Celebrates “Native American Day” instead of Columbus Day.

2. Alaska – Does not recognize Columbus Day as a state holiday. Instead, it observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

3. Vermont and Maine – Both states officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day.

4. Oregon – Does not recognize Columbus Day as a public holiday and various localities may celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

5. Minnesota – Officially recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October to honor the history and contributions of Native American communities.

6. Wisconsin – Also observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrating and recognizing the cultural significance of Native American peoples of the state.

7. Michigan – Has officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrating and reflecting on the history of Indigenous peoples.

8. New Mexico – Recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, replacing Columbus Day to honor the state’s Native American cultural heritage.

9. Hawaii – Celebrates Discoverers’ Day, dedicated to Polynesian navigators who populated the islands, rather than Columbus Day.

10. Washington – Has also officially declared the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrating the rich history of Native American communities.

Historical Background

Christopher Columbus, an Italian navigator sponsored by the Spanish crown, embarked on his voyage across the Atlantic with the hopes of finding a new route to Asia. Instead, he landed in the Bahamas, marking the beginning of European exploration and colonization of the American continents. Columbus Day was first recognized as a state holiday in Colorado in 1905 and became a federal holiday in the United States in 1937.

Celebrations and Observations

In cities with significant Italian-American populations, such as New York and San Francisco, Columbus Day includes parades, church services, and other cultural festivities that celebrate Italian heritage. These events often feature Italian food, music, and art, with the Columbus Day Parade in New York City being one of the largest.

In addition to the traditional celebrations, some states and cities choose to observe the holiday under different names and contexts, focusing on the history and culture of indigenous peoples. States like South Dakota, Alaska, and Oregon observe “Native American Day” or “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” instead of Columbus Day. These observances include activities such as pow-wows, traditional dances, and lectures aimed at increasing awareness of Native American history and culture.

Columbus Day 2024: A Long Weekend Ahead

In 2024, Columbus Day will indeed result in a long weekend in the United States. The holiday is observed on the second Monday of October, and in 2024, that date falls on October 14. This scheduling means that government offices, banks, and many businesses that observe the holiday will be closed on that Monday, allowing for a three-day weekend. This is in line with the intent behind the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, which aimed to provide more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, enhancing recreational opportunities and stimulating economic activity.