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Columbus Day

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The Commemoration of Columbus Day

The Year 2012 marks the 41st anniversary of the observation of Columbus Day as a legal, public holiday. It also marks the 23rd anniversary of the designation of October as National Italian American Heritage Month by the President. The proclamation was made in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.

History/Background of Columbus Day

The first celebration of Columbus Day was held in this country soon after the American Revolution.  On October 12, 1792, the New York Society of Tammany (also known as the Columbian Order) honored Columbus on the third centenary of his first voyage. In 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag was written in honor of Columbus Day.  In 1909, New York State was the first to pass legislation declaring Columbus Day a holiday.   Within a few years, October 12th became a legal holiday in more than 30 states.  Indiana and North Dakota called the holiday "Discovery Day," while Wisconsin called it "Landing Day."  Congressman McClory's bill, supported by Congressman Peter Rodino (D-New Jersey) and 14 other sponsors, ensured that all 50 states would recognize the holiday annually. 

House Representative Robert McClory (R-Illinois) proposed Public Law 90-363 on June 28, 1968.  It established the dates for several new federal holidays, including Columbus Day.  The bill was passed and went into effect January 1, 1971, officially making Columbus Day the second Monday in October every year.

Comments from NIAF

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) joins t he nation's estimated 25 million Italian Americans, the fifth largest ethnic group in America in celebrating the 41st anniversary of the observation of Columbus Day as a legal, public holiday.  Cultural and commemorative events are held in honor of Christopher Columbus on Monday, October 8, 2012 and throughout October. 

Columbus Day is not just a celebration for Italian Americans, but a day that all Americans share a common heritage.  Let us continue to commemorate the achievements of the many people who followed Columbus to America and helped build a great democracy. The Italian explorer inspires us to lead lives of courage and determination.

Background:  Christopher Columbus              

Christopher Columbus paved the way for the exploration of the Americas more than 500 years ago.  Born in 1451 in the Republic of Genoa, an important sea-faring Italian state, Columbus took his first sea voyage at the age of 14.  In all, he made four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean and later died in poverty. His first voyage in 1492 lasted 33 days.  On October 12, one of his sailors spotted land.