The second Monday in October is Columbus Day in the USA.

Americans might not have a Columbus Day if Christopher Columbus had not been born in Italy.  Out of pride for their native son, the Italian population of New York City organized the first celebration of the discovery of America on October 12, 1866.  The next year, more Italian organizations in other cities held banquets, parades and dances on that date.  In 1869, when Italians of San Francisco celebrated October 12, they called it Columbus Day.

In 1905, Colorado became the first state to observe a Columbus Day. Over the next few decades other states followed.  Then in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed every October 12 as Columbus Day.  Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October.

In 1792, a ceremony was held in New York honoring Columbus, and a monument was dedicated to him. Soon after that, the city of Washington was officially named the District of Columbia and became the capital of the United States. In 1892, a statue of Columbus was raised at the beginning of Columbus Avenue in New York City. At the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago that year, replicas of Columbus’s three ships were displayed. In 1992 Americans marked the 500th anniversary of the Columbus discovery.

Columbus Day in questions and answers

What does Columbus Day celebrate?

Columbus Day commemorates the day that Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas.

When is Columbus Day celebrated?

In the United States it is celebrated on the second Monday in October. The traditional day is October 12th, the day that Columbus arrived.

Who celebrates this day?

The day is celebrated by many countries in the Americas including the United States. In many Spanish speaking countries it is called Dia de la Raza which stands for Day of Race. In the United States the level of celebration varies from state to state and community to community. Many states have the day as an official holiday and government buildings and schools are closed. A few states have chosen not to recognize Columbus Day as a holiday. These states include Hawaii, South Dakota, and Alaska. South Dakota celebrates Native American Day and Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day instead. Some people are opposed to the day because they don’t want to celebrate what Columbus and the Europeans did to the Native Americans after they arrived. Several states recently adopted the custom of calling it Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

What do people do to celebrate?

Some of the largest celebrations in the United States are Columbus Day parades. There are large parades in many cities including New York and Chicago. The parades celebrate not only Columbus Day, but also celebrate Italian-American heritage. Since many people have the day off from work and kids are out of school, people often travel over the Columbus Day weekend.

What Activities Are Popular on Columbus Day?

On Columbus Day you can learn more about the explorer Christopher Columbus. You can also try some crafts including making a map of his travels or drawing a picture of his three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. A lot of people like to shop on this day as there are many great sales and they can get an early jump on Christmas shopping.

Was Columbus the first to reach America?

Christopher Columbus is sometimes credited with “discovering” America. Of course there were already people living in the Americas for thousands of years. Today we call them Native Americans.  Columbus wasn’t even the first European to reach the Americas as Leif Ericsson of the Vikings had already visited.

However, it was Columbus’ journey and discovery that led to the European colonization of the Americas. The Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, and Dutch all sent more explorers and settlers following Columbus’ return telling about the riches of this new land.

Is Columbus Day widely celebrated in the USA?

It is the least observed of all federal holidays with only around 10% of businesses closing and taking the day off.

Christopher  Columbus (1451 – 1506)

Christopher Columbus, as well as some learned men of his time, had decided that the eastern coast of Asia could be reached by sailing westward across the Atlantic. Columbus thought, also, was no farther from Europe on the west that we know now America to be. He thought the East Indies were directly west from the Canary Islands. In these far-away lands men thought they should find honour, wealth, and fame. Such an enterprise would require the equipment of vessels at much expense. Money and influence were essential. Columbus had neither. He sent his brother to England and to France. Then went to Spain again. Finally, after seven years of waiting, Columbus found success. Isabella, Queen of Spain, agreed to aid him in carrying out his plans. Three small vessels, only one of which had a deck, were fitted out. The largest of these, the Santa Maria, was commanded by Columbus. The others were the Nina and the Pinta. Before sunrise, August 3, 1492, this little fleet, with one hundred and twenty men and provisions for a year, sailed out of the port Palos.

At last after a voyage of ten weeks, land was discovered on October 12,1492. Columbus had discovered one of the Bahama Islands which he called San Salvador. He coasted along the shores of Cuba and Haiti. He did not find the cities of Asia as he had expected, but he had no doubt that he was in the East Indies, and therefore called the natives Indians.

When Columbus returned to Spain with the news of his discovery the     people were enthusiastic with delight. Men were now eager to go where they expected to get all kinds of wealth. Four voyages were made in all, but when adventurers reached the land of their hopes and found no silks, no spices, no precious stones, no gold, they reproached Columbus. The Court of Spain, also, finding no return for the great expense of fitting out these expeditions, censured him. His enemies increased, and his last days were spent in disappointment and neglect. Heart-broken, he died ignorant of the greatness of his own discovery.

Find answers to the following questions in the text.

  1. In what way did Columbus decide to reach the eastern coast of Asia?
  2. Where did Columbus think Asia was?
  3. Where did he think the East Indies were?
  4. What was essential for Columbus’ enterprise?
  5. How many years did he wait for carrying out his plans?
  6. How many vessels were fitted out for the expedition?
  7. Why did Columbus call the natives Indians?
  8. Why were adventurers disappointed when they reached the land of their hopes?
  9. Did Columbus spend his last days in fame or neglect?
  10. Did Columbus realize that he had discovered a new continent?