Many countries in the New World and elsewhere officially celebrate as a holiday the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, which happened on October 12, 1492. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in Italy and in the Little Italys around the world. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century and officially in various areas since the early 20th century. This holiday has also met with a long history of opposition: several regions in the United States either refuse to observe it or celebrate on that date a different event entirely.
Since 1970, the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October, coincidentally the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada (which was fixed to that date in 1959) (note that October 12, 1970, was a Monday). It is generally observed nowadays by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service, other federal agencies, most state government offices, many businesses, and most school districts. Some businesses and some stock exchanges remain open, also some states and municipalities abstain from observing the holiday. The traditional date of the holiday also adjoins the anniversary of the United States Navy (founded October 13, 1775), and thus both occasions are customarily observed by the Navy (and usually the Marine Corps as well) with either a 72 or 96-hour liberty period.
Wikipedia contributors, “Columbus Day,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed October 12, 2014).
“Desembarco de Colon de Teofilo de la Puebla” by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla Tolín (1831-1901) (by Rockger21) – Photo scan (Book:Historia del Arte). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
“DSCF8124” by Twice25 e Rinina25 – Twice25 e Rinina25. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons