Today is Columbus Day in the United States, and it’s actually the earliest date it can be celebrated on according to Wikipedia. This holiday is a federal holiday and most state and federal workers, as well as school and college students, appreciate this long weekend. But for many people, myself included, certain elements of Columbus Day have remained entirely unknown.
Did you know that it’s observance in the U.S. dates back to 1792 when New York and other cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the America’s? One hundred years later, in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison encouraged the nation to observe the 400th anniversary, inspiring patriotism across America.
The men’s catholic organization, The Knights of Columbus, started in the mid nineteenth century in an attempt to counteract the discrimination they felt as unwelcome immigrants. They were influential in increasing understanding and observance of this holiday. They successfully lobbied Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, at which time October 12 was established as Columbus Day. In April of 1937, it was established as a federal holiday, but in 1971, as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it was decided that the holiday will occur on the second Monday in October.
The feeling of patriotism and celebration of this day go back to the mid 1800s, when in 1866 the first known Columbus Day parades was held in New York. San Francisco’s Italian community followed with their own parade in 1868.
Three states– Hawaii, South Dakota, and Alaska–do not observe Columbus Day. In South Dakota, it is Indigenous People’s Day and Hawaii celebrates it as Discovery Day when it is said the Polynesians discovered the beautiful island nation. The Bahamas also celebrate Columbus Day as Discovery Day, and the U.S. Virgin Islands recognize two holidays–Columbus Day and Friendship Day, which honors Puerto Rico. Parts of California and Dane County, Wisconsin also celebrate this day as Indigenous People’s Day and some states no longer consider it a paid government holiday.
Political correctness has tarnished this holiday as some citizens in the U.S. and other countries are questioning its validity. They do not wish to see the savage and cruel treatment of Native Americans by Europeans glorified.
Canadian businesses have petitioned the government to make the last Thursday in November as their official Columbus Day to encourage tourism to Canada and to the U.S for the Macy’s Day Parade. Currently, their Thanksgiving is on our Columbus Day–so Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian readers!
As I sit here with the cold weather arriving in central Massachusetts, I remember this holiday last year. My windows were open as temperatures were still like summer in the seventies and eighties the entire weekend. While this year the holiday is celebrated at the earliest possible time, it will be celebrated on October 14th next year, which is the latest date it can be celebrated.
For more information about this and other holidays go to wikipedia.org and look under categories and history.