5 October 2016

Columbus Day – floats, parades, and flags: From New York to Spain.

columbus day

A celebration of the explorer, who, in 1492, landed on the shores of the New World and discovered America. However, Columbus Day is a relatively recent invention.

It has its beginnings in 1866 when it started as celebratory event, organized by the Italian community in New York. It was only consecrated as a National Holiday throughout the United States in 1937, by the then governing president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


One hundred and fifty years after the first celebrations, New York is still the vibrant hub of these festivities.

On the second Monday of every October, all along the Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, an enormous parade with floats, brass bands and military units attracts almost a million onlookers.

Moreover, the American and Italian tricolor flags are waved side by side.

The numerous Italian communities take – even today – an active role organizing and participating in the celebrations and, in honor of the occasion, the Empire State Building is lit up with the colors of the Italian flag.


The first landing of Columbus in the Americas is also celebrated in Latin America, where it is called Dia de la Raza, and celebrates the encounter between the European and Native Americans civilizations.

The Dia de la Raza was also held in Spain up until 1958 when it changed its name to Fiesta de la Hispanidad. It became a National Holiday in 1981, and has changed its name again to Fiesta Nacional de España.

On the 12th of October every year – usually in Madrid – a military parade celebrates, not just Columbus, but also the Armed Forces – which, since 2000, have celebrated their National Day on this date.