Columbus Day

Columbus Day Quick Facts - GB

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2023 Date9 October 2023
2024 Date14 October 2024

Columbus Day

Columbus Day is a widely-known observance that marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. This event initiated the age of exploration, paving the way for new connections between Europe and the American continents. The day is marked with various types of celebrations, depending on the country and its relation to Columbus's expedition. In some nations, it is celebrated as an official holiday, while others regard it as merely an observance.

When considering Columbus Day from a British perspective, it is worth noting that Christopher Columbus was originally seeking a western route to Asia under the sponsorship of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, which at the time was a rival power to England. The United Kingdom, therefore, does not have the same direct historical connection to Columbus as Spain, Italy, or the American continents. However, his achievements were a spark for European exploration and colonisation, events that would have a significant global impact, including on British history and culture through their own navigators such as Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake.

In the United Kingdom, Columbus Day is not observed as an official public holiday or given prominence in British society. Indeed, it goes largely unnoticed, unlike in the United States or some Latin American countries where it is a day of significant celebration or commemoration. In the UK, important related historical figures are often discussed in educational settings, but dates specific to the events of Columbus's voyages are not a particular focus.

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Columbus Day facts

  • Christopher Columbus' first settlement on Hispaniola Island was called Villa de Navidad (Christmas Town)
  • In 1971, the official holiday was moved to the second Monday in October in order to give workers in the US a long weekend. This was part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
  • There is a persisting claim that Columbus actually visited the city of Bristol in England before his famous voyage in 1492. The legend goes that he was learning about the Atlantic currents from the Bristol seamen. However, this theory has been mostly debunked by historians.
  • Some of Columbus' maps, letters, and writings are held in British museums and institutions, such as the British Library in London, which has a 1493 Basel edition of Columbus' letter announcing the success of his voyage to the Americas.

Top things to do in the UK for Columbus Day

  • Eat some good Italian food.
  • Watch a parade.
  • In coastal areas, sailing clubs or maritime organizations might arrange boat races, regattas, or other nautical activities to commemorate Columbus's skill as a navigator.
  • Local museums or galleries may hold temporary exhibitions focusing on Columbus, displaying artifacts, maps, and information about his journeys and their historical context.

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