MONDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2010
Columbus Day became a federal holiday in the United States in 1934, but Christopher Columbus’s landing in the Americas was celebrated across the country long before that.
In 1792, the Society of St. Tammany in New York City commemorated the 300th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage, and in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called upon Americans to recognize the 400th anniversary. Teachers, politicians, and others used Columbus Day to urge patriotism, loyalty, and social progress.
Italian-Americans began supporting Columbus Day celebrations in the 19th century as an expression of pride in their heritage. The Italian population of New York organized a celebration of the discovery of America on October 12, 1866, and in 1869, Italians in San Francisco held their own celebration.
The first official Columbus Day holiday was proclaimed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905, and President Franklin Roosevelt designated Oct. 12 a national holiday in 1934.
Other countries recognize Columbus Day as well. In Costa Rica, it’s known as Dia de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures); Uruguay calls it Dia de las Americas (Day of the Americas); in the Bahamas, it’s Discovery Day; and in Spain it’s celebrated as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional.