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Monday, October 12, 2009

The History of Columbus Day

To most in the United States, Columbus Day is a day when the banks and the post office are closed. However, it is also a day celebrated by many nations and is considered a symbol of patriotism in the United States. The first Columbus Day was celebrated on October 12, 1792 in New York City. This was organized by The Society of St. Tammany in a celebration of the 300th anniversary of Columbus discovering the New World.

Many developments occurred in the Nineteenth Century. Italian-Americans began observing the holiday as a celebration of their heritage in New York City in 1866 and in San Francisco in 1869. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called upon the citizens to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the event. During this celebration, politicians, preachers, teachers and other citizens used the holiday to promote and teach patriotism. It was the first time the Pledge of Allegiance was recited in public.

In 1905, Colorado was the first state to officially observe the holiday largely due to Italian-Americans successfully lobbying in Denver to establish it as an official holiday. It wasn’t until 1934 that President Franklin Roosevelt officially proclaimed it Columbus Day. This occurred as a result of lobbying before Congress by the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is an organization originally started by Catholic immigrants who took on the name to fight discrimination and support their right to citizenship using Columbus as a fitting symbol since he was a fellow Catholic who had discovered America.

It is only a coincidence that today is 12th day of October because the holiday was officially declared the second Monday of October in 1971 by President Richard Nixon as most holidays have been moved to fall on a Monday. Coincidently this is also the day Canada celebrates Thanksgiving.

So have a Happy Columbus Day! Or if in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Vi ringraziamo per la splendida scrivere ,
    Felice Columbus giorno a voi pure ,
    Noi italiani amare il nostro Columbus giorno tradizioni

  2. thank you for the write up,
    Happy Columbus day to you as well,
    we italians love our columbus day traditions

  3. Sono contento che lei ha piaciuto esso. È una buona tradizione. Molti di mio relativo sono italiano. Come un cattolico, ricordo crescere intorno ai Cavalieri di Atrio di Columbus. Abbiamo avuto molti buoni tempi. Sperare che lei ha un grande giorno!

  4. A great writeup Brian.No wonder it is a sensitive issue amongst academics to suggest that Columbus may not have been the first.


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