From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Columbus Day is a holiday
celebrating the anniversary of the October 12, 1492
arrival of Europeans to the Americas. Similar holidays, celebrated as Día de
la Raza (Day of the Race) in many countries in Latin America, Día de las Culturas (Day of
the Cultures) in Costa Rica,
Discovery Day in the Bahamas,
Día de la
Hispanidad in Spain, and the
newly-renamed (as of 2002) Día de la Resistencia
Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) in Venezuela, commemorate the same event.
United States observance
The first Columbus Day celebration was held in 1792, when New York City celebrated
the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. President Benjamin Harrison
called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the
400th anniversary of the event in 1892.
Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a
celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on
October 12, 1866.  Columbus Day was popularized as a holiday in the
United States by a lawyer, a son of Genoese immigrants who came to California. During the 1850s, Genoese immigrants
settled and built ranches along the Sierra Nevada foothills. As the gold ran out,
these skilled "Cal-Italians", from the Apennines, were able to prosper as self-sufficient
farmers in the Mediterranean climate of Northern
California. San Francisco has the second oldest
Columbus Day celebration, with Italians
having commemorated it there since 1869.
This lawyer then moved to Colorado, which had a population of Genoese miners,
and where, in 1907, the first state-wide celebration was held. In 1937, at the
behest of the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic fraternal
service organization named for the voyager), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside
Columbus Day as a federal holiday.
Since 1971, the holiday has been commemorated in the U.S. on the second Monday in October, the
same day as Thanksgiving in
neighboring Canada. However, it is
generally observed today only by banks, schools, the U.S. Postal Service, and federal
and most state government offices, but not by businesses or stock exchanges.