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Definition: Columbus Day from The Columbia Encyclopedia

holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus's discovery of America. It has been traditionally celebrated on Oct. 12 throughout most of the United States, parts of Canada, and in several of the Latin American republics. In the United States, however, since the observation in 1971 of the Uniform Holiday Act, it is celebrated on the Monday nearest to Oct. 12.

Summary Article: Columbus Day
From Cultural Studies: Holidays Around the World

When the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) persuaded King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to provide financial backing for his plan to find a new route to the Orient by sailing west, he was confident that only about 2, 400 miles of ocean separated the two continents—a gross underestimation, as it turned out. And when he first landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, he believed that he'd reached the East Indies. Despite these errors in judgment, Columbus is credited with opening the New World to European colonization, and the anniversary of his landing on the Bahamian island of San Salvador is commemorated not only in the United States but in Italy and most of the Spanish-speaking nations of the world.

Also known as Landing Day, Discoverers' Day (in Hawaii), DISCOVERY DAY, Hispanity Day in Spain, and in many Latin American countries as Día de la Raza or Day of the Race, the second Monday in October is celebrated in this country with parades, patriotic ceremonies, and pageants reenacting the historic landing. A mammoth parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City is a Columbus Day tradition.

In 1991, the spirit of political correctness affected Berkeley, California, as Columbus Day was cancelled in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day. Likewise, the Student Senate at the University of Cincinnati declared that myths about Columbus may not be studied or discussed—the University is “a Columbus-myth-free-campus.”


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