This year: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Columbus Day, second Monday in October
Columbus Day in America (always the second Monday in October) is a rather quiet holiday, even though it is a Bank Holiday Monday in England. Depending on where in the country you are living, children might still have to go to school on Columbus Day. Now, most people have to work on Columbus Day, although a few decades ago everyone got the day off. Thus, Columbus Day is more a tradition than a holiday. As the years go by and Columbus Day becomes less and less important to the average American, it will probably become just a question in Trivial Pursuit. There are no Columbus Day presents to worry about, no Columbus Day cards to send, or Columbus Day carols. It's a sort of the Italian version of St. Patrick's Day (March 17). If you are an Italian descent or are a member of the charity organization Knights of Columbus, then Columbus Day is a day for a small parade and a big dinner. But for most Americans, Columbus Day is just another day, although you can usually find a big sale going on in every shop.
Columbus Day started rowdily in the Italian district of New York City in 1866 with parades, food, dancing, and music. At that time in the young nation's history, America was gasping for heroes. America was also going through a very xenophobic phase and immigrants were very much discriminated, and so it felt good to find a source of pride in one's countrymen. Columbus was Italian and at the time was considered the man who proved the world was round. He was considered a daring, intelligent explorer - in short, a hero.
Columbus Day was gradually adopted by other cities and states until it was declared a national holiday in 1937. Everything was closed and people had the day off to go to the parade. But all is changed now. Although there is a similitude with St. Patrick's Day, which has captured the public's imagination, Columbus Day has not. Columbus Day in October is when people are pretty busy preparing for winter holidays.
Over time, historians were able to put Columbus' discovery into better perspective. It really didn't amount to much. He was NOT the first white man to discover North America and couldn't care less if the world was round. He was looking for a shortcut to India, which had a lot of goods demanded in Europe. That was why the natives he discovered were mistakenly called "Indians". In other words, he was looking only to get rich. He was a true American, in a way.