That Other October Holiday

That Other October Holiday


As summer becomes a memory, the leaves are already turning in many places around the world. The canopy of green will give way to a stunning panorama of color, marking the start of fall better than any calendar. Many people are already picking out their pumpkins and deciding what costume they’re going to wear come October 31st. 

While Halloween may get the lion’s share of attention during the month, and deservedly so considering the amount of money spent on it, it’s not the only holiday that calls October home.

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. So goes the old rhyme that many of us learned in school. On October 12th of that year, Columbus’ ship first set down on what soon came to be called the New World.

It took many years for Columbus Day to be recognized in the United States. The first recorded ceremony commemorating Columbus in America didn’t occur until in 1792 in New York City.

Though he sailed under the flag of Spain, Columbus was Italian-born, and it was the efforts of the Italian-American community that were crucial to the eventual creation of Columbus Day. 

Beginning in 1866, New York City's Italian population organized a celebration of the 'discovery' of America. The celebration soon spread to other cities and became known as Columbus Day in San Francisco in 1869. The first state to officially recognize the day was Colorado in 1905. Other states slowly followed, though it wasn’t until 1937 that the U.S. government officially declared it a federal holiday.

Though Columbus Day is sometimes better known as the day the banks are closed and the sales are open, many cities across the country still commemorate the event. Baltimore claims to have the "Oldest Continuous Marching Parade in America" celebrating Columbus Day. The city of Denver has held an annual Columbus Day parade for over 100 years. For its part, New York City holds a Columbus Celebration that includes a parade down Fifth Avenue and a mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The holiday isn’t without controversy, however. Many activists feel the day celebrates the destruction of the culture of the indigenous peoples living in the Americas when Columbus arrived. Some states and localities have alternatives to Columbus. South Dakota for instance, celebrates Native American’s Day instead, while Berkeley, California observes Indigenous Peoples Day.

So whether you’re interested in the parades or the sales, or just want to enjoy a bit of spectacular fall color, October has a lot more to offer than just Halloween.

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