Columbus Day, which is annually on the second Monday of October, remembers Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492. This holiday is controversial because the European settlement in the Americas led to the demise of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples.
Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas. He is sometimes portrayed as the discoverer of the New World. However, this is controversial on many counts. There is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had ‘discovered’ the Americas thousands of years before.
Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869. The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907. In 1937, Columbus Day become a holiday across the United States. Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. 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 and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.
Officially, the people of the USA are invited to 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. Most celebrations are concentrated around 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.
Since Columbus Day is a designated federal holiday, the post office, government offices, and many banks are closed. Many cities across America stage parades that day. For example, Baltimore claims to have the “Oldest Continuous Marching Parade in America” celebrating Columbus Day. Denver is holding its 101st parade in 2008. New York City holds a Columbus Celebration that includes a parade down Fifth Avenue and a mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Marianna Szoke / Las Vegas, NV