Columbus Day

[ kuh-luhm-buhs dey ]
/ kəˈlʌm bəs ˌdeɪ /
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the second Monday in October, a U.S. legal holiday observed in many states in honor of the landing of Columbus in the West Indies on October 12, 1492: Columbus is traditionally considered the discoverer of America, though he was not the first European to reach the New World.
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Origin of Columbus Day

An Americanism dating back to 1890–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day is a US federal holiday in commemoration of the arrival of Italian navigator Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492 (specifically on an island in what is now the Bahamas).

For many years, Columbus was traditionally hailed as the “discoverer of America” due to the widespread belief that he was the first European to land in the Americas. (Evidence now suggests that Norse navigator Leif Erikson landed in North America around 1000 c.e., an event commemorated on Leif Erikson Day).

Among some Italian Americans, Columbus Day has traditionally been celebrated as a day to recognize the history, culture, and achievements of Italian immigrants and people with Italian heritage in the U.S. October was chosen for Italian American Heritage Month due to Columbus Day being observed during the month.

A more recent holiday known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed on the same date that Columbus Day has traditionally been observed on. The establishment of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and its placing on this day grew out of the objection to the celebration of Columbus due to his role in colonization and its history of oppression of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is often viewed as a replacement of Columbus Day, and in many places its observance has officially replaced that of Columbus Day.

When is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day is observed each year on the second Monday in October.  In 2023, it will be observed on October 9. In 2024, it will be observed on October 14.

In some states, Columbus Day is always observed on October 12, the anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the West Indies.

More information and context on Columbus Day

Columbus Day has been celebrated in some form since at least 1792, the 300th anniversary of Columbus’s landing. Eventually, Columbus became an honored figure among Italian Americans, especially members of the Catholic fraternal organization Knights of Columbus. In the 1900s, the group lobbied for wider recognition of the holiday as a way to celebrate Italian Heritage amidst anti-Italian discrimination. In 1937, a presidential proclamation made it a nationwide observance, and it was officially adopted as a federal holiday in 1968.

In the 1980s, many Native Americans began to protest Columbus Day as a celebration of the colonization that resulted in systemic oppression and acts of genocide against Indigenous Peoples in the Americas by white European colonizers and subsequently by the U.S. and Canadian governments. Indigenous Peoples’ Day began to be officially recognized in some U.S. locations in the 1990s. Since then, it has been adopted as an official observance in many states—either as a replacement of or alongside Columbus Day.

In many places in Central and South America, dates on or around the anniversary of Columbus’s landing are marked in other ways. Many nations observe Dìa de la Raza (Day of the Race) in celebration of the diverse heritage and culture of the region, including its many Indigenous Peoples.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Columbus Day?

How is Columbus Day discussed in real life?

For some Italian Americans, Columbus Day has traditionally been a day to celebrate Italian heritage. However, many people observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day in replacement of Columbus Day in acknowledgement of the history of oppression against Indigenous Peoples.



Try using Columbus Day!

True or False?

Columbus Day commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in North America.

British Dictionary definitions for Columbus Day

Columbus Day

Oct 12, a legal holiday in most states of the US: the date of Columbus' landing in the West Indies (Caribbean) in 1492
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012